National Poison Prevention Week
When you hear the words poison control, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For most of us, it’s the green poison YUCK face! Many people in the ‘older’ generation will remember seeing these fluorescent stickers handed out at school awareness functions, carried home and given to mom and dad to put on the Comet cleaner, and everything else under the (unlocked, no child safety clip) kitchen sink! Thankfully, we have evolved as a nation into more preventative measures that don’t end with just a warning sticker. National Poison Prevention Week was established by Congress in 1961. The goal was to bring awareness to the public, reduce accidental poisonings and promote prevention. This occurs during the 3rd week of March, yearly.
According to the poison help page (www.PoisonHelp.hrsa.gov) there are nearly 700,000 visits to emergency rooms each year, and sadly, 35,000 deaths caused by poison. You might not believe it, but shockingly 92% of this deadly number is among people over the age of 20 (this statistic can be found in the National Poison Data System – NPDS). In total, 2,200,000 annual human exposures have been documented, and 50% of those exposures are children younger than the age of 6. So, prevention at a young age is just as important for teens and adults.
Poisoning isn’t just caused by ingesting a substance. For example, mixing ammonia and bleach can produce a toxic chloramine vapor that causes respiratory issues. It’s smart to keep these types of cleaning products in separate areas of the house, to avoid any chance of mixing them. A major concern with today’s teens is misuse of prescription drugs and inhalants. Parents can help by closely monitoring the use of painkillers in youth, making sure to dispose of any unused prescriptions (for a list of prescription drop off locations, please see your local Health Department website or check with your local law enforcement agency), and be involved. Know what your teen is doing and who they’re hanging around. As the weather gets warmer, plants, mushrooms and berries will start popping up and some of them look quite appealing. If you live in an area with a lot of natural growth, these are things you need to be aware of. Make sure children know not to put anything from a plant (or anything at all!) in their mouth before asking a trusted adult if it’s safe. We need to consider the safety of our pets too. Antifreeze is highly poisonous to animals and yet, they are so drawn to the sweet smell and taste. Keeping vehicle maintenance liquids stored in cabinetry or on a garage shelf can help keep our furry loved ones safe.
Take a look at the poison help page listed above for activities and printable resources to help bring awareness and educational opportunities for all ages. The poison hotline is a 24 hour, 7 days a week, 365 days a year number where you can reach a nurse, pharmacist, doctor and even a poison expert and it is FREE to anyone in need. In many cases, the representative helping you will ask permission to call you later in the day, just to check in and make sure the proper care was taken for the exposure reported. Please make sure this number is posted somewhere in your house (the refrigerator is a great location). Remember, prevention is key!
Please keep in mind, this is not for emergencies requiring immediate attention. In any case of unconsciousness, intentional overdose, attempted suicide, 9-1-1 is the FIRST number you need to call.