Child Health Month focuses on inhalant abuse Long after children have learned that common household products can poison them, many are deliberately inhaling such substances to get high and causing great harm to themselves, warns the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). To draw attention to this issues, the AAP is focusing on substance abuse prevention with an emphasis on inhalant abuse during Child Health Month in October.
While some drug abuse is declining, inhalant abuse is on the rise. One of five eighth-graders has tried it. Also called "huffing," "sniffing," or "solvent abuse," this harmful activity can cause short- and long-term health problems, including brain damage. The scariest thing about inhalants is that a child could die from using them only once.
According to the 1997 South Dakota Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 17.8 percent of ninth- through 12th-graders surveyed reported that they sniffed or breathed substances to get high, compared to a 16 percent rate nationally. The highest rate overall was for ninth-graders at 25.1 percent, well above the national rate of 19 percent.
The AAP urges parents, teachers, caregivers and others who work with children to be aware of the following signs of inhalant abuse;
* Breath and clothing that smell like chemicals.
* Spots or sores around the mouth.
* Paint or stains on body or clothing.
* Drunk, dazed, or glassy-eyed look.
* Nausea, loss of appetite.
* Anxiety, excitability, irritability.
Inhalant abuse is a difficult form of substance abuse to treat. It is best to recognize and start treatment before the problem becomes a habit.
The AAP stresses communication as a way to prevent young people from trying harmful substances. Adults can help young people stay away from drugs and inhalants by helping them set goals for themselves, building their self-confidence, and teaching them to stand up against peer pressure, parents should tell children that some kids use drugs to be accepted by their peers, then explain the dangers of doing so.
Established seven years ago by the AAP, Child Health Month is a major public awareness effort held every October to stress the importance of preventive health care for all children.