• Eric Tyler, MD

Fashions Most Deadly Accessory

Small towns in rural Alabama have some interesting traditions. As I have three daughters, most of the childhood traditions were experienced from the female perspective. One will be the topic of this essay. That would be, “The Purse Man”.

Every Friday during the spring, The Purse Man would display his wares on a prominent corner on one of our three main avenues of travel. ANY girl from fourth grade up would awaken on Fridays of the Purse Season begging to go to the Purse Man after school. At least once a month, Mom would cave and stop as much for herself as for her daughters. They would carefully look at all the styles, colors and shapes narrowing down the field until there were three. Then the negotiations began first with the Purse Man to obtain the lowest cost; then with Mom to up the purse purchase limit from one to three settling for two. The purses were then happily carried to the car and dreams of how this one accessory would improve her image or standing or beauty by making an outfit. No thoughts were given that the same purse was probably sold to fifteen other dreamy eyed girls or Moms on the same day. Three weeks later, it was relegated to just another option in which to “Tote her stuff.” With little thought given that the purse is without question the most deadly fashion accessory.

The purse styles change as a woman ages and has children. What was once a cute carrier for just a few essentials becomes a piece of luggage considered by most families to be a dependable warehouse. Anticipating all the potential needs of the children, the essentials become enough to require significantly more capacity. Exactly what is in a woman’s purse is a mystery few men may explore. That is an extension of personal space much like an annexed colony. On any given day, women have three purses at the ready for use depending on mood, functional need, wardrobe or whim. On the rare occasions when the arch enemy of household clutter decide to organize their purses with a good spring cleaning, the discoveries are legendary. All sorts of lost items are found like phone numbers, missed appointments, recipes, the location of a new outlet for clothing and that special moment when a crisp neatly folded $20.00 bill is located. Imagine how exciting exploring Mom’s purse can be for a toddler. Imagine the difficulty you would have passing the test of recall of the exact contents of your purse right now.

1. Every purse of an adult woman has a medication of some type in it. In my career, there have been many toddlers that have ingested Iron tablets (Renal failure), Birth control pills (little risk except breast growth hard to explain for a three year old), Tylenol (Liver failure, coma and death) Advil (Renal failure), other pain medications like Codeine or Hydrocodone (Opioid overdose) and the only death from ingestion in my career Grandmother’s heart pills and a two year old female. It took her seven days to die and all we could do was walk that path with her.

2. Every purse has cosmetics. Between 2002-2016, 64,686 children less than five years of age were seen in ED’s due to cosmetic related injuries. That is about 1 every 2 hours. Seventy-five percent were ingestions (swallowed) and 19 percent were eye related. The top three culprits were:

Nail polish, Hair care products and skin care products.

3. Many purses contain a sharp device for opening things like a Swiss army knife or a pair of scissors.

4. This is the Deep South. Some purses contain a true weapon like a gun, pepper spray or Mace.

5. Every purse has some sort of electronic device. At least one Mother shared that her two-year-old called Peru on her cellphone. That bill was a big surprise.

6. The actual target for the purse explorer is a treat like gum or a mint. Sweet Tarts and Skittles require maternal consent but there is a Sneaky Pete in us all.

7. There are feminine hygiene products which can be a source of embarrassment when Mom found her three and four year old boys made earrings out of tampons during the sermon cracking up the solemnity of the moment. God loved that one I am sure.

8. The personalized miscellaneous category is variable: Tobacco products including electronic vaping devices which are a major risk to everyone. Wooden spoon enforcers. Band aids, Sunscreen, Bug spray, etc., etc.

9. Want to have some fun, go to a large gathering asking women to bring their purses. Divide them into teams and have a purse scavenger hunt. Be creative in the list and be surprised what is really in those cute fashion accessories slung over the shoulders of those women.

What you should seriously consider is this fact. You don’t really know the exact contents of your own purse. You have no clue what is in another woman’s. Therefore, watching a toddler embark on a purse exploring adventure is not as safe as you might think.

The Alabama Poison Control Center’s Phone number is 1-800-222-1222. Stop right now and put it in your cellphone speed dial. They are there 24 hours a day seven days a week to answer questions about all kinds of things that could be found in purses and households. Most of these events happen away from home.

Fashion’s killing of a crowd should always be a metaphor.

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