Reader report: ‘Cautionary tale’ after child finds syringe at beach

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.)

20 Replies to "Reader report: 'Cautionary tale' after child finds syringe at beach"

  • kate April 14, 2012 (9:08 pm)

    Scary story. So sorry you and your family had to experience that. Tough day for you guys, I’m sure, so thanks for sharing the information.

  • Robin April 14, 2012 (9:14 pm)

    Thanks for sharing, John. This was useful. Hope everything turns out to be fine.

  • resident3 April 14, 2012 (9:45 pm)

    Awful! Maybe schools should do a presentation showing pics of what not to touch. (Do they)
    Sorry this happened on such a nice day. Hope there is no additional news beyond an “all clear”from your doc.

  • Noelle April 14, 2012 (9:54 pm)

    WOW! SCARY! POOR LITTLE GIRL! 1st rule for outside time should be “If you find something interesting DO NOT TOUCH IT & show an adult.” Anything could be interesting, good or bad, safe or unsafe. Sometimes you just need an adult to tell you if something is a good idea or not without fear of getting in trouble.

  • Lorelee April 14, 2012 (10:41 pm)

    Thanks for sharing- I would be terrified. FYI- public health centers have drop boxes for all our needle-using neighbors.

  • Mike April 15, 2012 (12:27 am)

    Many times these are items that wash up, not always dumped by users in the neighborhood. Hopefully this case is minor and not like;videoMetaInfo

  • E April 15, 2012 (6:59 am)

    My heart goes out to you. What a very scary experience. I hope all is ok for your little girl.

  • eaglewatch April 15, 2012 (9:17 am)

    And people think I am overly cautious when I tell them I don’t walk barefoot on city beaches for exactly that reason.

  • LyndaB April 15, 2012 (10:12 am)

    That is so scary. Thinking of good thoughts for you and your family.

  • ~Hockeywitch~ April 15, 2012 (11:11 am)

    That’s just super scary. I hope that everything being checked out with your daughter turns out to be ok and she gets the all good from the doctor.

  • Bill April 15, 2012 (11:16 am)

    Unfortunately, the generally irresponsible people who leave their parapheranalia lying about aren’t to concerned about others, let alone themselves. I’ve found these things in West Seattle parks, in alleys, and in bus stops throughout the area. They’re time bombs to anyone who isn’t aware they’re everywhere. Best to be constantly on the lookout. Do NOT let children play in public areas without shoes. Do NOT! There once was a time when such issues were of remote concern. Not anymore. The disposable needles are more insidious and there are more and more of those lying in wait.

  • KD April 15, 2012 (2:06 pm)

    For the Dad; despite what you, your daughter & family went through, you can take pride in knowing that her scary experience is probably going to help many other people with your advice & posting, etc. I’ve already transferred the hotline emergency #’s to my screen saver to have handy. Who knows… Maybe one day your daughter will become a doctor, nurse, phlebotomist,etc. due to her experience in emergency. Thanks for passing on the ‘teachable moment.’

  • John April 15, 2012 (4:57 pm)

    Thanks everyone for the supportive comments. I too hope this is a teaching moment for my daughter and her twin sister.

    I shared our experience to hopefully help others either avoid going through this or at least if it does happen to someone else, have them be better prepared.

    Still waiting on test results.

  • hmmm April 15, 2012 (9:47 pm)

    The saltwater may have killed any infection if the needle was dirty, but yes kids need to know to watch out for such things.

  • forrealtho April 16, 2012 (12:23 am)

    This reminds me of a story I heard about 5 year old running into a hotel room, looking under a bed & pulling out a used condom. Yikes! Kids are so curious & vulnerable. Best of luck to your family; sending good thoughts.

  • John April 16, 2012 (11:56 am)

    The needle was high up on the beach and looked like it had just been put there that morning or the night before – no indication that it had been in the salt water. Plus the cap was on thus protecting the needle.

    We just got my daughter’s test results back and in fact she is one of the 5-10% of people who’s Hep B vaccinations (that’s she’s been taking since an infant) have not been effective. She’s off now to the emergency room for a Hep B Imnunoglobulin shot and another Hep B immunization shot

    I’ve read that you need to get the Hep B immunoglobulin shot within 14 days of exposure to be effective, but the sooner the better.

  • ces April 16, 2012 (12:41 pm)

    Hopefully you tested her twin’s Hep B status also. And any other children you may have. And YOURSELVES.

  • John April 16, 2012 (1:21 pm)

    Yes, we plan on testing her twin for Hep B resistance as well . . .

  • Neal Chism April 17, 2012 (8:08 pm)

    Very sorry to hear of this.
    I just can’t imagine what goes through the mind of a person that would knowingly leave these things on a beach or toss one in the water.
    These things also need a unique serial number on each one for trace back.

  • A April 18, 2012 (8:37 am)

    Poor kiddo, those shots are NOT FUN. What a lesson to have to learn. :-( I hope she’s doing ok.

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