Accidental Poisoning: No Parent Should Have to Go Through This

I couldn’t quite process what I was seeing. My 3-year-old was sitting on the floor by the stairwell. She was trying to spit something out of her mouth.

Then I saw the yellow encasing for the medicine capsule. She had bitten into (and eaten) my dog’s arthritis medicine. I’m certain this image of my daughter sitting on the floor with the bright yellow pill on the floor in front of her will never leave my memory.

What followed was a flurry of events.

I used my sleeve to wipe the medicine off of my daughter’s tongue, then I had her stand over the garbage and told her to spit into it. I told my oldest daughter to get her coat on. I called my in-laws while shoving the bottle of my dog’s medication into my purse, then directed my youngest daughter to put her boots on. I drove my oldest daughter to my in-laws house and then went directly to the hospital.

Those few minutes were the longest of my life. However, I didn’t hesitate. I didn’t doubt my actions… I was on mommy auto-pilot.

Upon checking my daughter into the emergency I began to replay the events in my mind.

My dog has been on Tramadol for a few years. Sometimes he will hold the pill in his mouth and then spit it out later or he will eat all of his food but leave the pill in his bowl. My daughter had obviously found one of his rejected capsules….

My sweet, precocious, little three-year-old sat on my lap in the emergency room. She was talking coherently, she seemed her usual, energetic, self and her only complaint was that her tongue hurt (which wasn’t a surprise considering I wiped it with the sleeve of my shirt). As we waited to be seen by the doctor I took it upon myself to Google the medication:

Do not crush, chew, or dissolve extended-release tablets or capsules. Doing so can release all of the drug at once, increasing the risk of side effects or overdose. (Source: Web MD)


My stomach flipped, my heart thudded, and it was then that I burst into tears.

My mind spiraled out of control. Why did this happen? If only I had walked into the room a few seconds earlier. What if I had walked into the room a few seconds later?

I felt sickened, grieved, and fearful.

Even though my mind raced, this was one of those rare parenting moments in which I didn’t revert to self-condemnation. This was a straight-up accident. I couldn’t have known my dog would spit up this teeny, tiny pill. I couldn’t have expected that my daughter would find it and eat it.

Regardless, the tears flowed freely as I held my daughter on my lap. I never prayed so much in my entire life. I was not going to lose my daughter. Not on this day… not in this way.

Even though she’s a preschooler I couldn’t help but see her as the helpless newborn I met in the delivery room of that very hospital just 3 1/2 years earlier.

Meeting my baby girl

Holding that infant I made the promise that so many mothers make. I would love her. I would protect her. I would do anything for her; my beautiful baby girl….

A couple of hours later, after being assessed by a resident and then the doctor, my daughter was found well enough to be discharged from the hospital.

We went home and things felt surreal as we went through the motions of “normal” everyday life. You would’ve never guessed we had an accidental poisoning just a few hours prior.

That night as we ate dinner, I looked at my daughter and thanked God that I wasn’t looking at an empty chair at our kitchen table. I had moments when I looked at her and tears filled my eyes. I had moments when I hugged her a bit tighter and held her a bit longer.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose a child. This was the closest I’ve ever come to it.

Sleepless nights, sibling fights, yelling, hitting, and temper tantrums… parenting is far from easy. However, I would rather navigate those challenging moments than face the grief of an empty chair at the kitchen table.


Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom
Former early childhood professional, now a stay-at-home-mom of two girls. I write about parenting, homeschooling, my faith, and personal life experiences. I'm striving to become the deliberate mom I long to be.
Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom
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  1. says

    Twitter handle:
    Oh my goodness Jennifer! That had to have been one of the scariest days for you both. I’m so glad she’s ok. My daughter got into one of our pill bottles ones I’d left out on the counter of the bathroom. Thank God we heard the pills spill. I don’t want to even know what would have happened if we hadn’t.
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  2. says

    Twitter handle:
    Oh Jennifer! What a heart-pounding event in your life! And hers of course too. Yikes! Thank God you had the sense to get her help immediately. And I am so thankful that it all ended up so well.
    And the fact that you caught her in the act is a miracle too. What if she never told you what happened?
    I would have cried too. How good God is to have made sure you were there, and had the organization to drop off your daughter and take the 3 yr old in. (The photo of you with her is so precious…)
    I am so glad you are in the ‘looking back on it’ phase. Phew!
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  3. says

    Twitter handle:
    This sounds like such a scary experience! HUGS! Accidents happen and I totally understand all the second guessing & what ifs. I really struggle with processing when accidents happen. I’m SO glad this had a happy ending and that she did not suffer from anything more than a chafed tongue!
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  4. says

    Twitter handle:
    Oh man Jennifer, you scared me for a moment. I’m so glad that everything turned out ok. I make sure that all medications have child safety caps and are out of reach of the kids. Sometimes things are beyond our control like finding a rejected pill in your case. We can never be too careful. Once again I’m happy that it turned out ok in the end.
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  5. says

    Twitter handle:
    Gahhh!!! Soooo stressful just READING that, I can only imagine the way you felt that day. SO scary. I thankfully have not experienced this and I hope I don’t ever have to, but I COMPLETELY agree with your sentiment at the end of the post…I would rather deal with all of the sleepless nights, tantrums and sibling fights than look at an empty chair at the dinner table.
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  6. says

    Twitter handle:
    This is beyond scary. SO SCARY. Oh gosh….the thought of something tragic happening as a result of a complete accident is the scariest thing my mom brain can think of. I’m so glad it was only a scare, though. I’m sorry you had to go through this and I’m so relieved it’s over and you have your babies safe and sound!
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  7. says

    Twitter handle:
    When my youngest was a toddler, she got a hold of the newly purchased, not-yet-opened bottle of Children’s Tylenol. I had JUST been in the kitchen with her and I slipped into the dining room for a moment. I came back into the kitchen and found her with the open bottle, chewing on the Tylenol. She must have eaten about 9 or so. I called poison control and they reassured me she’d be fine – and that’s why they only put 24 in each bottle. My daughter was fine – not even tired.
    However, with the pills your daughter had, I would’ve rushed to the hospital, too. I would not have wasted time calling poison control.
    Either way – these scenarios are excellent examples of how, we as mommies – awesome mommies – can do only so much to protect our children, and then it is up to God. I learned that when my son toppled overboard a boat and landed on a rocky shore. I do what I can to keep my kids safe, my due diligence, but the rest – which is much more than I can ever accomplish – is God’s territory.
    Thanks for sharing this story. Many of us have gone through similar experiences – or will go through – and we all need the reassurance that we aren’t ‘alone’.

  8. says

    Twitter handle:

    I saw the title and thought my heart stopped.

    Rushing through the post, I freeze at the picture of your darling newborn and panic… “Please oh please let this be a happy ending!!!!”

    Still shaking here, cause we had a similar thing happen 18 years ago.

    My son, Evan, was only 3 and he’d gotten into both his aunt’s prescription meds AND a new bottle of Tylenol. Him and his two cousins.

    We rushed them all to the hospital when we found out the Tylenol bottle only had 10 pills left in it. They’d eaten the whole things…like candy.

    Turns out the 2 girls had only taken a pill each. They’d be fine. Evan though…he’d downed that whole bottle.

    The doctors told us to prepare for him to have a kidney failure (or was it liver—sorry, maybe someone here knows which one it affects, I can’t remember). They did blood tests and for some stupid reason, the doctor said they wanted to wait 30 minutes to see how his body would react–then give him some kind of charcoal stuff to absorb the gook in him.

    It was something about his blood test that made the Doc pause.

    So there’s Kathi, me, her mom and dad, MY mom and dad and Evan, rolling around on the floor with me, wrestling like nothings happened.

    30 minutes pass. Doctor comes out, says he wants to wait 30 minutes.
    30 minutes pass. Doctor comes out, says he wants to wait 30 minutes.
    30 minutes pass. Doctor comes out, says he wants to wait 30 minutes.

    I freak out and almost punch the doctor in the mouth!
    He says that Evan’s body was doing something he’d never seen. The 3 year old was absorbing ALL the Tylenol. It didn’t affect him at all….

    We were sent home, emotionally spent, but OH SO GRATEFUL that Evan was ok.

    Kathi’s dad’s response?
    “Them’s the Samoan genes…..”

    2nd worst daddy scare of my life.

    SO glad she’s okay Jennifer!!
    (gonna go grab a Pepsi—you scared the CRAP outta me)

    P.S. Not been a good day of news. Evan called at lunch and asked us to pray for his co-worker’s (a good friend) family. The young man got an emergency call from mom and dad–his 15 year old brother died just before noon today.

    No details yet.
    Makes me more grateful for your daughter being ok.
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      • says

        Twitter handle:
        Thank you, Jennifer. It’s a very sober week around here.

        My son came home late and I didn’t know this, but both my son and our nephew (who lives with us) were friends with the young boy.

        Apparently he was overcome with depression.
        He hung himself.
        …his mom found him.

        I cannot imagine the loss.
        So may I say to everyone here, as I’ve struggled with depression myself most my adult life–hang in there,

        Do NOT try to solve a temporary problem with a permanent solution.

        Let us all count our blessings.
        God Bless you all.
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  9. says

    Twitter handle:
    WOW. I have shivers reading this. Totally a mom’s worst nightmare. I can’t believe you had to go through this :( Mommy auto pilot is an amazing thing. I’m glad you didn’t doubt your actions and I’m soooo glad you caught her with the pill. Ugh. I feel sick just thinking about this! So proud you all pulled through!!!

    Stephanie @ mommyzoid
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  10. says

    How awful. I’m SO glad things turned out on a positive note! Accidents like this are just so easy to come across. I’m so sorry for this massive scare, but what a good reminder this post is to so many parents!!!! Just remember it is not your fault and you are such an amazing momma!!

  11. says

    Oh my goodness how scary!! I am so glad you daughter is alright. You are so right about the autopilot thing. Mother’s do not panic (well maybe after the fact) but when we know something is wrong. We do what needs to be done. I am glad you have the realization it was an accident, and you couldn’t have prevented it. No need for guilt on top of an accident. I am so glad she is ok :)
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  12. says

    Twitter handle:
    Oh my goodness, Jennifer, I am so wired after just reading this so I can only imagine what you’re feeling. Thank God that you got to her and you innately went on mommy auto-pilot.

    Thank you for sharing this because it’s now a poignant reminder to the rest of us. Even though we don’t have anything like that in the house, I’m going to start preparing a medicine/pill discussion for my 3 year old.
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  13. says

    This is actually a HUGE fear of mine.. I have so toddler proofed my house it’s insane.. and yet my toddler STILL finds ways to make my imagine go into overdrive with ways she could harm herself inadvertently. It doesn’t help that I grew up with a coroner for a father and spent a lot of time in the morgue! Life is so fragile and keeping this little life alive seems like a huge task at times!! –
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  14. says

    Twitter handle:
    Hi Jennifer, the word the two words that sprung to mind as I read your post was how terrifying and how lucky! It just goes to show that no matter how careful we are no risk is ever fully eradicated.

    I am glad that your daughter is fine and I have no doubt that she’ll be left less scarred by this event than you will be!
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  15. says

    Twitter handle:
    I read this because my dearest friend just dealt with her son taking 3 times his prescribed asthma medication. She was on mommy auto-pilot for sure. We always beat ourselves up for whatever goes wrong, whether a boo boo or an accident. We struggle to balance being hyper vigilant and giving them the room to be independent and explore. This post gave me goose bumps.

    SO happy she is ok!
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  16. says

    Twitter handle:
    Hi, I’m a new reader to your blog, and this was the first post I clicked on! I can’t relate YET, but I’m expecting my first baby in just a couple of weeks and I certainly already have mommy stress over all the things that I can and can’t control. There’s not a mom in the world that doesn’t try to protect their children from harm, but the scariest moments are just accidents that you never see coming. Glad to read that everything turned out okay!
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    • says

      Twitter handle:
      Congratulations on the about-to-be-addition to your family! How exciting! Please don’t let my traumatic event frighten you… these things do unfortunately happen and we just have to do our best and be vigilant.

      Thanks so much for stopping by! I look forward to connecting more with you.

  17. says

    Twitter handle:
    Jennifer, I am so glad to hear your daughter is fine. It is a blessing that God had you walk in when you did, notice the remains of the pill, and act quickly. Thankfully she is fine. Being a parent is a tough job, that requires nerves of steel and a cool-head. I am sure you are giving extra hugs and kisses to the kids.

    Cheers — Tammi
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  18. says

    Twitter handle:
    Oh my gosh Jennifer! I am so happy and thankful that everything turned out okay and I’m so very sorry you had to go through this! As I read this tears streamed down my face as I was so very scared for you. I don’t even know what to say except what I already have said.

    Much love,

    Lysa xx
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