New Delhi: Accidental ingestion of acids and corrosive substances are common occurrences in homes, with children between the ages of one and three being the most vulnerable, according to city doctors.
The immediate symptoms are vomiting and severe abdominal pain with mostly children mistakenly consuming substances like toilet cleaners or acids kept in mineral water bottles or other daily-use containers, the doctors said.
All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) authorities say more than 50 such cases reach the hospital's emergency every year with peak incidence between 1-3 years of age.
Esophageal injuries caused by ingestion of caustic agents occur frequently in small children. Commonly, the ingestion occurs because of inadequate storage of products such as acids, alkali and bleaches, doctors from AIIMS said.
According to the doctors, ingestion of such corrosives burns the food pipe from inside and causes ulcers in it. These ulcers bleed and perforate, which is often life-threatening.
Sir Ganga Ram Hospital receives 20-25 cases in a year.
"When such an accident takes place, family members should try to stimulate vomiting and rush the child to a paediatric where endoscopy should be done within 25 hours.
"If the reports reveal that the ulcers are too deep, then a nasojejural tube is inserted through the food-pipe. It takes almost four to six weeks for the injury to heal.
"But the actual problem starts after the healing as it leads to the narrowing of the food pipe and the child may have difficulty in swallowing even his saliva," Dr Nishant Wadhwa, Paediatric Gastroenterologist at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, said.
Apart from esophageal complications, these corrosives can cause severe damage to the stomach due to pyloric spasm and accumulation in the antrum, Dr Pankaj Vohra, Paediatric Gastroenterologist at Max hospital, said.
"They form ulcers in the stomach and cause swelling and obstruction of stomach outlet. In such cases, nothing should be given by mouth. The child should be started on intravenous fluid and given parenteral nutrition.
"After that, the child should undergo endoscopy for some time. Surgical interventions may required if there is a complete obstruction," Dr Vohra said.
However, precaution is always better than cure. Doctors advise that such poisonous substances should be kept in secure places out of reach of children.
Potential household poisons should not be transferred to empty containers (otherwise used for food or beverages) and corrosives should not be kept in the open.