Needle and threat
Is your child safe from needle sticks?
Healthy 5 year olds shouldn’t be placed in danger, simply because they walked in a park. But they are. Children run the risk of contracting diseases such as HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B, all because “dirty” hypodermic needles were tossed on the ground.
Unfortunately, accidental needle stick injuries to children are becoming more of a reality. During the spring and summer months, Cook Children's averages one stick per month. Most kids range between 5 and 9 years old, but last year a toddler picked up a needle and stuck it in her mouth.
“And that’s just the kids that we know exist because we saw them at Cook Children’s,” Chris Curtis, clinical coordinator of Infectious Disease at Cook Children’s, said. “We don’t know how many parents didn’t take their child to the Emergency Department because their child didn’t tell them or maybe they didn’t think it was that serious. We want everyone to know, it’s very serious and can even be life threatening.”
These children were stuck in locations as seemingly innocent as their apartment complex, a neighboring park and in a school yard in cities including Fort Worth, Bedford, Grandview and North Richland Hills. But these sticks could happen anywhere someone is injecting a needle, either through legal or illegal means.
“We can help our kids from getting stuck, mainly by education,” Curtis said.. “Talk to your kids about this issue and educate them to avoid needles and what they should do if they are stuck.”
Curtis recommends teaching your children:
- When you see a needle, always stop.
- Do not touch the needle. Ever.
- Leave the area immediately.
- Tell an adult.
Ok, adult you’ve been told. Now what?
- Make sure your child washes his or her hands thoroughly. Good hand washing after any exposure to a needle or syringe is required as soon as possible.
- Call 817-335-4222. That’s the non-emergency number for the City of Fort Worth to come and pick it up. People outside the city of Fort Worth, should call their city’s local non-emergency number.
- If an adult decides to pick up the needle, do so with caution. Don’t handle the needle. Use a salad tong for instance (throw the salad tong away afterward) or gloves. Then toss the needle in a laundry detergent or bleach container. Make sure the container is made with thick plastic and has a screw- top lid. Then place the sealed container in a trash bag. The adult should also wash his or her hands thoroughly and immediately.
- Take your child to the Emergency Department immediately. Cook Children’s works as a system to treat a child who has been stuck and knows how to handle this situation, including testing, treatment and prescribing any medication. The Cook Children’s Infectious Disease department provides medical care after a needle stick with multidiscipline approach, including physicians, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, HIV case managers and Child Life specialists.
A needle stick is a painful and dangerous consequence of others not caring for your children or anyone else.