Children 9 to 12 years old are in between middle childhood and true adolescence. This is a time of rapid development. Many tweens are still kids, while others are mimicking their teenage counterparts.
One of the ways they may act more like teenagers is in experimentation regarding substances and suicidal thoughts.
What parents should watch for
1. Inhalants such as glue, cooking spray and room deodorizer
Inhaling or “huffing” these substances can create a short-lived sense of euphoria. Tweens may participate in this as a dare or as an alternative to other more difficult to obtain substances, such as alcohol.
Have discussions with your tween about this behavior and stay involved. Some warning signs are empty containers, chemical odors on breath, stains on hands or clothing, slurred speech and confusion. “Huffing” can lead to brain damage and even sudden death.
2. Cough/cold medicine
Guzzling cough and cold medicine for a buzz isn’t new, but it is affordable. It is also incorrectly seen as “safe” by tweens and teenagers. Kids have been known to ingest 20 times the recommended dose, which leads to a host of issues such as dizziness, nausea, high fever and an irregular heartbeat.
Do not stockpile this medicine in your home and to keep track of the number of containers you have. In addition, talk with your tween about overusing cough and cold medicines.
3. Hand sanitizer
Hand sanitizers are an effective means of battling viruses. However, these products have high alcohol content — many are 60% ethanol, which equals 120 proof. There are online recipes that kids use to make the sanitizer more palatable. Also, some school-aged children lick or sip hand sanitizer and become intoxicated because they liked the way it tastes. Again, it is cheap, readily available and having hand sanitizer in your backpack doesn’t raise any eyebrows from adults.
The symptoms become worse with larger ingestions over a longer range of time. Monitor the amount of hand sanitizer that you keep in your home and consider purchasing the foam sanitizers, which may be less appealing for intentional ingestion.
Talk about medicine safety
Research shows that tweens begin to self-administer medicine around 11 years old, or around 5th or 6th grade. With allergy season in full swing, now is a good time to talk about over-the-counter medicine safety.
- David Gummin, MD, medical director, Wisconsin Poison Center
The Wisconsin Poison Center is a program run by Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. The poison center provides 24-hour, toll-free poison information for all individuals in Wisconsin. For any poison emergency, call (800) 222-1222.