West Seattle dad John e-mailed to share the story in hopes it might be “useful” to others – especially other families with children:
My two 8-year-old daughters and I went to Constellation Park this afternoon bringing our lunch and planned on staying for 2 or 3 hours.
Just shortly after we ate our lunch I turned around and saw my one daughter with a syringe in her hands. I told her to immediately put it down and she did. But I asked her if she had poked herself with it and she said yes – in her finger – and it did indeed appear that she had upon closer inspection.
So I grabbed the syringe (it still had its cap with it) and went back home and called the Swedish nurse hotline. They recommended that I take her to the emergency room immediately and bring the syringe with me.
They also told me to wash the puncture site a couple of times and try to get it to bleed in between washes.
After a long wait and consult with the doctor, they said that the syringe appeared to be unused due to it’s like-new condition and lack of any residue inside, but they could not be sure. It was a syringe typically used for insulin injection due to the shape and needle size. They indicated that the biggest risk was hepatitis since the virus can survive a long time in such a condition, unlike HIV and most other nasty things which degrade extremely quickly in a syringe laying on the beach in daylight. Hepatitis B my daughter has been immunized for since birth, but Hep C there would be nothing to be done. So, just to make sure her Hep. B immunizations were being effective (apparently 10-5% of those that get immunized don’t develop immunity as desired) we had her blood drawn for a test. If the test comes back showing her immunity for Hep B is good then there is nothing to be done other than watch and wait. If her immunity was not effective, then she needs to come back and get Hep B immune globulin injections. We’ll know tomorrow.
Anyways, we’ve warned our kids many times about picking such things up at the beach, but apparently it did not work in this case.
So, a word of caution to parents with this nice weather and impeding summer calling us to the local beaches. Talk to your kids about what to do if they find a syringe at the beach:
– Don’t touch it
– Tell an adult about it
– If you do get punctured by one, tell your parents right away
For the parents:
– Call one of the nurse hotlines immediately and they will tell you what to do
– If possible, safely take the syringe with you to the doctor, they will want to inspect it if possible
– Know your kids’ immunization history
Hopefully other parents will find this useful.
We found a resource list online that appears to have some of the nurse hotlines John mentioned; scroll down this page. (We did a Google crosscheck and the four hospital-affiliated numbers listed as public hotlines appear to be valid.)