It can happen so quickly. Julie Hyde, of Ashland, Oregon, was cooking dinner when her 18-month-old daughter, Ally, slipped out of the kitchen, pulled a chair up to the bathroom counter, and drank the open bottle of cough syrup that her dad had just used. Molly Stephan, a 3-year-old from Miami, found a plastic ant-bait tube underneath her bed, filled it with water, and took a sip. Fortunately, both girls didn't suffer any lasting effects. However, Rex Souder, of Bellevue, Nebraska, had a much scarier experience. The 19-month-old drank a bottle of lamp oil that he found in his grandmother's china buffet. She rushed him to the local emergency room, but after two hours, he needed to be transferred to a larger hospital with pediatric specialists. Rex was turning blue -- he had aspirated some of the clear oil into his lungs and couldn't breathe. Doctors had to put him on a ventilator, and he spent 13 days in the hospital. "I had no idea that I had something so dangerous in my home," says his grandmother, Judy.
These frightening stories are just a few of the 2.4 million poison incidents -- one every 13 seconds -- that poison-control centers handle each year. Nearly half involve young children who like to climb, explore, and put anything that looks interesting into their mouth. Poisonings also occur when kids inhale toxic fumes or get caustic chemicals on their skin or in their eyes. While most poisoning cases aren't serious enough to warrant a trip to the hospital, almost 130,000 children under age 6 needed treatment and about 760 experienced potentially fatal or permanently damaging effects in 2005, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.