Calling the poison center: My child ate toothpaste

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In September we looked at what you can expect when you call the poison center. This month we’ll show you how a call might sound. The example here is pretty common—what do you do if your child got into the toothpaste? With brightly colored packages and kid-friendly flavors, it’s no wonder this happens a lot!

As you’ll see reading the script, having the tube with you when you contact the poison center (1-800-222-1222 or chat online) can be really helpful. Some toothpaste is fluoride-free “training” toothpaste for young children, while most kinds have fluoride to fight cavities.

Toothpaste
Toothpaste photo by Mauren Veras, Creative Commons

Poison Center: Poison center. How may I help you?

Caller: Hi, I found my daughter eating toothpaste out of the tube and I’m not sure if I should be worried.

PC: OK, how old is your daughter?

Caller: 3 years old

PC: And how much does she weigh?

Caller: About 30 or 35 pounds

PC: How long ago did she swallow the toothpaste?

Caller: It was probably about 5 minutes ago

PC: What is the name of the toothpaste? Can you read me the active ingredient on the label?

Caller: It’s “Dora the Explorer” from Colgate. It says it has 0.24% sodium fluoride, 0.15% fluoride ion.

PC: How much do you think she swallowed?

Caller: There’s still a lot left in the tube, so I wouldn’t think much. Maybe a tablespoon?

PC: How does she look? Any complaints?

Caller: No, she looks fine. She’s playing right now.

PC: OK, I’m going to do a quick calculation.

(caller briefly placed on hold)

PC: Your daughter is going to be fine. Just have her drink a glass of milk. Call back if she gets an upset stomach or throws up.

Caller: Great. Thanks so much!

Since toothpaste-related poisonings depend on how much the child weighs and how much fluoride they swallowed, a call like this can save hours of worry and unnecessary trip to the emergency room. Visit our poison index for more information on fluoride.

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