Written By: Prince William County Fire Department
The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), in collaboration with the nation’s 55 poison control centers, is celebrating National Poison Prevention Week (March 19th – 25th). This annual event occurs during the 3rd full week of March to raise awareness about unintentional poisonings, the leading cause of injury deaths in the U.S.This year’s theme is “When poison happens, we’re here for you.”
Poisons are substances that, in a high enough quantity, can cause illness, injury or death when ingested, inhaled, injected, or otherwise taken into the body. In 2021, according to the National Poison Data System, the poison control centers provided telephone guidance to over 2 million human exposure cases; that’s 1 poison exposure reported every 15 seconds. Poisonings occur across all age groups; approximately 75% of those are unintentional. In 2020, approximately half (47%) of all poison exposures were adults, and 39% were children under the age of 5. The most common substances of pediatric exposures in children are cosmetics and personal care products; in adults, 20 years and older, pain medications are the leading cause of adult poison exposures.
Accidental poisonings, among children, often occur when not closely supervised by an individual, parent/guardian who become distracted by the doorbell, a phone call, or some other interruption. In comparison to children, teens and adults, seniors are a higher risk for accidental poisonings. As one ages, they acquire more health concerns, more doctors, and more medications. Many adults, over the age of 65, take at least five different medicines daily not to mention prescription medications, over the counter medications, and dietary supplements, or both. pathwayshealth.org
Although the majority of unintentional poisonings involve drugs and medications, there are other leading poison exposures known as non-pharmaceutical substances, i.e., plants, mushrooms, carbon monoxide, pesticides, animal bites, and stings to mention a few. In addition, poison exposures can occur by ingestion whereby people are exposed to potentially dangerous substances through their lungs, skin, eyes, and other routes.
To prevent unintentional poisonings, follow these simple safety tips:
- Use child-resistant containers/packaging whenever possible.
- NEVER refer to medications as “candy”.
- Read the label on all medicines and products, to follow directions exactly.
- Use measuring devices that come with medications. DO NOT Guess!
- Store all medications, pesticides, chemicals, cleaning products, and batteries locked, out of sight and out of the reach of children and loved ones.
- Store medicines and household products in a different place than food.
- Keep an up-to-date list of all medicines being taken, including prescription medicine, over-the-counter medicine, vitamins, and supplements. Have this list handy whenever visiting the pharmacy or seeing the doctor.
- If your loved one is taking more than one medication at a time, check with their health care provider, pharmacist, or call the toll-free Poison Helpline (1-800-222-1222) to learn more about possible drug interactions.
- Keep all products in their original containers. DO NOT store in unmarked bottles.
- DO NOT mix household products together; this could make a poisonous gas.
- Avoid using household cleaners and disinfectants on hands or skin improperly.
- Store food at the proper temperatures. Refrigerated foods should not be left out at temperatures above 40 degrees F (5 degrees C).
- Install carbon monoxide alarms in every bedroom of the home.
- Check the label on any insect repellent. Be aware that most contain DEET, which can be poisonous in large quantities.
- Be sure that everyone in your family can identify poisonous mushrooms and plants.
- Call your local poison center to learn about common poisonous plants in your area.
- Store the poison center phone number on every phone: 1-800-222-1222.
Although 93% of poisonings occur in the home, they can occur anywhere, such as the workplace, schools, outdoors, etc. Any substance can be harmful if used in the wrong way, used by the wrong person, or used in the wrong amount; anyone can experience a poison emergency.
Acting Chief James Forgo, of the Prince William County Fire and Rescue System, urges residents to be vigilant in their daily routines, even the slightest change in one’s routine can be a distraction resulting in an unintentional poisoning. Through public education and assistance from the experts, of the Poison Help Line, unintentional poisonings are preventable and treatable; yet, we still have a long way to go.
For additional information visit the National Safety Council, and the Poison Help Health Resources and Services Administration, and the Center for Disease Control.