We wish you a non-toxic Christmas!It may be the season to be jolly but little do we know that Christmas also brings the potential for poisonings, according to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center experts. Here’s a checklist of toxic dangers that lurk in our homes as we get ready all those Christmas crackers and garlands.

ALCOHOL

It’s not that we are going to let babies drink it. But ethyl alcohol and denatured alcohol is also found in gifts such as perfumes and colognes. ER sees more children due to alcohol poisoning during the holiday season. Kids may drink unfinished cocktails lying around after holiday parties. Because of their small weight, babies are more likely to get alcohol poisoning than are adults.

POINSETTIA

Children who play with the leaves of this plant and then rub their eyes may experience redness and irritation. Eating poinsettias can cause gastrointestinal and local irritation.

MISTLETOE

Berries of mistletoe contain toxins that can affect the nervous system, blood pressure and the heart. Babies usually only ingest the berries in small amounts (i.e., one or two berries), so there is no documented cause for alarm or necessity for treatment.   

HOLLY

The berries of a few varieties of holly plants are reported to be poisonous. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and a slowing down of breathing and heart rate can occur after eating holly berries. Children might also eat the leaves of holly plants. These could also contain potentially toxic chemicals.

JERUSALEM CHERRY

This plant allegedly contains toxic solanine. Reported signs and symptoms of solanine toxicity include dilated pupils, salivation, nausea, vomiting, headache, bloating, diarrhea, respiratory depression, central nervous system depression, confusion, irregular heartbeat, coma and death. It is unclear how many Jerusalem cherries would have to be ingested to produce any of these symptoms.

CYCLAMEN

Very little is known about how poisonous this plant is to humans, but it can sure cause allergies.

ESSENTIAL OILS AND FLAVORS

Some ingredients, such as salicylates in oil of wintergreen, menthol, camphor, eucalyptol, and other oils and flavorings, can be extremely toxic if ingested.

DRY ICE

Dry ice is composed of carbon dioxide, and skin contact can cause tissue damage, and burns to the mouth can occur from ingestion. Flush the skin with lukewarm water if direct exposure occurs, and give lukewarm water to drink if a solid piece is swallowed.

As a reminder: if anyone has inquiries about other products in their home that may be hazardous, they are welcome to call Drug and Poison Information Center (DPIC) toll free at 1-800-222-1222 any time of night or day.

It’s an old peanut: to avoid food allergies, you must avoid eating peanuts for as long as possible. At least that’s what the traditional medical science recommends.

But new research casts doubt on government health recommendations.

The study, published in the November issue of The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, shows that children who avoided peanut in infancy and early childhood were 10 times as likely to develop peanut allergy as those who were exposed to peanuts.

Researchers measured the incidence of peanut allergy in 8,600 Jewish school-age children in the United Kingdom and Israel.

Prevalence of peanut allergy in the United Kingdom was estimated at 1.85 percent, versus 0.17 percent in Israel.

At 9 months of age, 69 percent of Israeli children were eating peanuts, compared to 10 percent of those in the U.K.

Dietary guidelines in the United Kingdom, Australia and – until earlier this year – the United States advise avoidance of peanut consumption during pregnancy, breastfeeding and infancy.

“The most obvious difference in the diet of infants in both populations occurs in the introduction of peanut,” lead author George Du Toit, MD, FAAAAI, wrote in the article.

While researchers suggest these recommendations could be behind the increase in peanut allergy in these countries, they cautioned that further evidence is needed before those guidelines should be changed.

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) cautions that although the results are promising, they shouldn’t translate to changes in treatment just yet.

 “While this study’s findings provide optimism for prevention of peanut allergy in the future, randomized, controlled trials are needed to verify that early introduction of peanut is indeed effective,” said Jacqueline A. Pongracic, MD, FAAAAI, vice chair of the AAAAI Adverse Reactions to Foods Committee.

Peanut allergy affects an estimated 3 million Americans, according to the AAAAI. It is one of the most common triggers of anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening reaction.

The incidence of peanut allergy has been on the rise in the United States, doubling in the five-year period from 1997-2002.

An allergist/immunologist is the best-qualified medical professional to diagnose and treat food allergies and other allergic diseases.

 baby

Babies and toddlers who live within 400 m of a source of diesel exhaust have double the risk for persistent allergic cough by the age of 3 years, compared to infants who live further away.

If babies are exposed to high levels of indoor allergens, such as paint, household chemicals, and carpentry, this risk is more than 4-fold higher.

The findings of a study showing the link were reported here this week at the Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology 2008 Annual Meeting by Patrick H. Ryan, PhD, an epidemiologist from the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, and coordinator of the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study.

“The timing of exposure and the mechanism of exposure are key” in the development of allergic wheeze and asthma in childhood, Dr. Ryan told meeting attendees.

HOW DID THEY FIND IT

Dr. Ryan’s team sampled dust samples in the homes, day cares, and other indoor environments where the infants spent a significant amount of time. They measured endotoxins and allergens and measured air quality —in particular diesel exhaust particles — in the homes of 792 newborns living within 400 m of interstate highways.

In this analysis, the investigators followed 624 infants through age 3 years, conducting physical assessments and measuring blood samples at 6, 12, 24, and 36 months.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN

Dr. Ryan reported that exposure to high levels of diesel exhaust had an increased risk for persistent allergic wheezing at age 3 years. Exposure did not increase risk for persistent nonallergic wheezing.

“The combination of the particles and the endotoxin create a chronic inflammatory condition,” he said. The findings were supported by elevated IgE levels in the exposed children, indicating an allergic immune response.

Dr. Busse said the findings indicate the importance of the environment in the incidence of asthma and the importance of educating the public as to the causes, symptoms, and proper treatment of asthma, a disease that is sharply increasing in prevalence.