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Ipecac is in short supply for child care

The current Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 170-296-0830 states that childcare businesses must keep a first-aid kit containing “at least one unexpired bottle of Syrup of Ipecac that must be given only at the direction of a poison control center.” The decreased availability of Syrup of Ipecac, from a lack of raw materials or the manufacturers’ decision to reduce production, has hindered this requirement.

Ipecac is the medicine used to remove poison from the stomach by vomiting. When swallowed, this plant extract causes vomiting in both adults and children.

The Washington Poison Center, our state’s poison control center, is recommending that childcare businesses keep all bottles of Syrup of Ipecac, whether it has expired or not. This is true for anyone who still has a bottle of Syrup of Ipecac among their first aid supplies.

“Studies have shown that unopened, factory-sealed Syrup of Ipecac remains effective for more than 30 years past the dated expiration,” said Dr. William Hurley, medical director of the Washington Poison Center. However, it is very important to always call the Poison Center prior to using Syrup of Ipecac, as not all poisons need to be vomited. Sometimes, it is more harmful to remove the poison than to leave it in the stomach.

“If an exposure has occurred, our poison specialists will assist in safely managing the care of the child, regardless of Ipecac availability,” said Hurley. The Washington Poison Center can be reached 24/7 on its toll-free help line, 1-800-222-1222. All calls are answered by specially trained nurses, pharmacists and poison specialists.

The Washington Poison Center has informed the State Department of Early Learning, the licensing agency for Washington state daycare providers, of the Syrup of Ipecac shortage and the recommendation for those providers to hold on to the expired bottles. Check the Poison Center’s Web site for updated information as it becomes available, www.wapc.org.

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