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Vietnamese toddler suffers severe poisoning after drinking rhino horn powder

Wednesday, July 31, 2019, 18:04 GMT+7
Vietnamese toddler suffers severe poisoning after drinking rhino horn powder
Smuggled rhino horns are confiscated by police officers in Vietnam. Photo: A.X. / Tuoi Tre

Doctors in Ho Chi Minh City have been able to save a 22-month-old baby from severe poisoning after her parents attempted to treat her fever with rhino horn powder.

The young patient is N.K.A.D., who resides in Cu Chi District, the Children’s Hospital 2 confirmed on Wednesday morning.

D. was taken to the infirmary in District 1 by her parents on the afternoon of July 18 with such symptoms as high fever, fatigue, and cyanosis.

As doctors did not detect any heart and lung problems after performing X-ray and echocardiography tests on the toddler, they suspected the cause might be poisoning.

The patient was then given a blood test, whose result indicated that her Methemoglobin level had reached 30 percent, about ten times higher than the normal limit.

The parents stated they had given her a type of drink made from rhino horn powder, believing it could help treat her febrile seizure.

But her condition only got worse, with bluish and purplish colors found on the skin of her fingers, they admitted.

In order to rescue the child, doctors used a ventilator to support her breathing and activated carbon to absorb the toxic substances.

She also underwent blood transfusion and other types of supportive therapy.

D. was able to breathe on her own five days after admission to the hospital, while her cyanosis was also alleviated.

As the functions of her organs were back to normal, the patient was transferred to the Department of General Internal Medicine for further monitoring and treatment.

According to Nguyen Van Loc, a senior doctor at the hospital, D. suffered from Methemoglobinemia, a condition caused by elevated levels of methemoglobin in the blood, which leads to an overall reduced ability of the red blood cell to release oxygen to tissues.

Children can be affected by the condition after consuming certain types of medicine, chemicals, or food, Dr. Loc elaborated.

Methemoglobin concentration in normal people remains at zero to three percent, he stated.

Tissue hypoxia, fatigue, headache, and dizziness may occur if the level reaches 15 to 30 percent, Loc continue, adding that it can be fatal if Methemoglobin concentration exceeds 70 percent.

Rhino horn powder is believed by many in Vietnam to have medicinal or even magical properties.

But Dr. Loc strongly advised against the use of rhino horn as medicine as there has been no scientific evidence showing that they could treat febrile seizure or other health conditions.

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