Dangerous oils: danger of poisoning for children

Hardly anything the Germans love so much in the summer, as to grill with family and friends. But dangers threaten not only by burns, but also by the liquid Grillanzünder. Just like colorful lamp oils, they are often drunk by small children - with fatal consequences. According to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment BfR, the most common childhood poisoning is through the ingestion of household products. In addition to detergents, these are often also lamp oils and barbecue lighters - ie substances that are packaged in bottles and look as if they were intended for drinking. Especially the lamp oils are beautifully colorful and remind of sweet lemonades. They are already drunk by the children directly from the oil lamps. Paraffin-containing oils (paraffinic hydrocarbons) are particularly at risk from poisoning from the second half of life until the age of four.

Lamp oils and liquid barbecue lighter

Paraffinic oils and petroleum distillates are contained in lamp oils for garden torches and oil lamps as well as in liquid grill lighters. Again and again accidents happen with these dangerous substances - serious health damages up to deaths can be the consequence.

The danger is mainly that the oils "crawl" when swallowed from the mouth into the lungs and cause severe inflammatory reactions there. In recent years, affected children had to be treated for several weeks in the hospital. Dangerous are already small amounts, which are included for example when sucking the wick. Symptoms of poisoning include severe coughing, shortness of breath (the child struggles for air) and possibly accelerated breathing.

Tips for child safety

  • Liquid barbecue lighters and lamp oils are out of the reach of children - after use, stow them away in a place that children's fingers can not reach.
  • Never refill such substances in beverage bottles; only use containers with child-resistant closures.
  • Use solid barbecue lighters in cube or bar form - there the liquid components are bound to sawdust or cork flour and thus do not reach the lungs when inadvertently swallowed.
  • If you do not want to do without wick lamps and garden torches, use only child-resistant lamps and less dangerous oils, eg rapeseed oil-based.

If, despite all precautions, a child has drunk even small amounts of liquid grill lighter, garden torch or lamp oil, the following rules apply:

  • Do not induce vomiting! Vomit and, with it, the oil can penetrate the lungs, aggravating the symptoms. Offer tea, water or juice to drink.
  • Persistent cough is alarm symptom! Keep your child upright. In case of severe cough or even shortness of breath, call the emergency services (emergency call 112); in case of slight cough, introduce your child to the pediatric clinic.
  • No symptoms, but you suspect poisoning? Immediately contact a Poison Information Center or your pediatrician.
  • Have the relevant product / label ready (take it on the phone or the original packaging to the doctor) - the more information available, the more targeted it can be helped.

Aromatic oils (fragrance oils, essential oils)

According to BfR, fragrance oils that are not directly ignited but vaporized are far less dangerous than lamp oils. As a rule, only large amounts of poisoning can trigger by entering the gastrointestinal tract and the blood. Possible consequences are nausea and vomiting, gait insecurity and changes in the state of consciousness. Certain essential oils, such as eucalyptus, can cause potentially life-threatening vocal fold cramps in smaller children, and some aroma oils cause intolerance reactions to the skin. Therefore, they should be used therapeutically (eg for colds) in smaller children with caution or not at all.

Parents should keep essential oils and remedies containing these oils out of the reach of their children. If a child has swallowed an aroma oil, the following rules apply:

  • Small amount (less than 1 ml) and unremarkable child: No action required.
  • Larger amounts and / or complaints: contact a doctor.
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