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Sniffing Glue and Other Inhalants

Watch Out!

New paint, wallpaper, synthetic carpet, and some types of new furniture can produce harmful chemical fumes. If you are going to redecorate the nursery, try to do it several weeks before the expected birth date. As soon as the work is completed, ventilate the nursery by opening windows or using the air conditioning for a few days. Consider using environmentally friendly paints that don't emit as many fumes.

Inhalants are commonly found in homes—glue, nail polish remover, typewriter correction fluid, felt-tip markers, butane lighter fluid, oven cleaners, hair spray, and furniture polish are just a few. As with other kinds of drug abuse, kids use inhalants for the stimulation or “high.” Because these substances aren't illegal, they're easy and cheap for kids to obtain and simple to hide at home or at school.

The number of children who abuse inhalants has doubled in the last decade. The risk is enormous because the effects of inhaling toxic chemicals are so unpredictable. A child who tries a certain amount and appears okay could use the same amount another time and get very sick or even die. Some kids have died the very first time they've sniffed an inhalant; their parents never even had the chance to notice warning signs.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says it takes the body at least two weeks to rid itself of these toxic chemicals through the urine and through exhaling, which is why an inhalant user's breath often has a chemical smell.

Here are other signs the AAP says to look for:

  • A chemical smell, paint, or stains on clothing or the child's body
  • Spots or sores around the mouth
  • A drunk, dazed, or glassy-eyed look
  • Nausea, loss of appetite
  • Anxiety, excitability, irritability
Watch Out!

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says the most likely age of an inhalant abuser is 12 to 14 years, and kids as young as 8 sometimes do it to imitate older siblings. Almost 20 percent of eighth-graders have tried some form of inhalant.

To prevent your kids from trying inhalants, educate them in how harmful these products are. Kids who don't die from inhaling can still suffer hearing loss, short-term memory loss, muscle spasms, and permanent brain damage.

Encourage your child to get involved in activities such as clubs or sports. Keeping kids busy in wholesome activities reduces the chance that boredom will lead to drug experimentation. Help build your child's self-esteem by encouraging him to set goals, and praise him when he achieves them. Self-confident children are less likely to turn to drugs as a way to feel good about themselves. Self-confidence in their decision-making also equips kids to resist peer pressure.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Child Safety © 2000 by Miriam Bacher Settle, Ph.D., and Susan Crites Price. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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