How To Treat Children Exposed to Chemicals Used in Bioterrorist Attacks

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Decontaminating Children

The Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) released The Decontamination of Children: Preparedness and Response for Hospital Emergency Departments, a 27-minute video that trains emergency responders and hospital emergency department staff to decontaminate children after being exposed to hazardous chemicals during a bioterrorist attack or other disaster.

This video provides a step-by-step demonstration of the decontamination process in real time and trains clinicians about the nuances of treating infants and children, who require special attention during decontamination procedures. For example, children may be frightened not only by the emergency situation itself, but also may be afraid to undergo decontamination without their parents; children also take longer to go through the decontamination process than adults.


"This video provides a valuable and straightforward overview for first responders and hospital emergency personnel on decontaminating infants, children, and parents who have been exposed to dangerous chemical agents," said AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D. "I hope this will be a valuable tool for those taking care of children, who will be one of our most vulnerable populations during a bioterrorist attack or other emergency."

Produced for AHRQ's Bioterrorism Preparedness Research Program by Michael Shannon, M.D., M.P.H., Chief of the Division of Emergency Medicine at Children's Hospital, Boston, the video outlines key differences between decontaminating children and adults; provides an overview for constructing portable and permanent decontamination showers and designating hot and cold zones; and provides steps to establishing and maintaining pediatric decontamination capacity in a hospital emergency department.

A short clip from "The Decontamination of Children" can be found online at A free, single copy of the video, available in DVD or VHS format, may be ordered by calling 1-800-358-9295.