Throughout Kentucky and the United States, someone calls a poison control center about someone who may have been exposed to a toxic substance every 14.5 seconds. In 2015, America’s poison control centers managed 2.8 million encounters – Two million of these were children and adults exposed to some sort of drug, chemical or substance.
Poisoning is the #1 cause of injury-related death in the United States.
Since 1962, the third week of March has been designated as National Poison Prevention Week. Each weekday has a specific theme:
- Monday, March 20 – Children Act Fast…So Do Poisons
- Tuesday, March 21 – Poison Centers: Saving You Time and Money
- Wednesday, March 22 – Poisonings Span a Lifetime
- Thursday, March 23 – Home Safe Home
- Friday, March 24 – Medicine Safety
Approximately half of all human exposure cases managed by poison centers in 2015 involved children six years old and younger, but adolescents and adults poisoning cases tend to have more severe outcomes.
Nearly 60% of all poisoning and exposure cases involve over-the-counter and prescription drugs. The most common occurrences include accidental double-dosing, using the wrong medication, an incorrect dose or doses taken too close together.
Other exposures include household products, plants, mushrooms, pesticides, animal bites and stings, and carbon monoxide poisoning. More than three of four poisoning reports turned out to be unintentional.
In many cases, poisoning can be prevented. Here are some suggestions from the American Association of Poison Control Centers:
- Only take medicines prescribed for you by a doctor or healthcare professional.
- Never take larger or more frequent doses of medication – especially pain medication – to get faster or more powerful effects.
- Keep all medications – especially prescription painkillers – in a safe place that can be reached by the people who take or give them.
- Read all medicine labels carefully, especially warnings. Some drugs cannot be taken in combination with other medicines or foods.
- Keep medicines in original containers.
Around the home, some advice about using cleaners or beauty products:
- Always read the product label before using. Some products are poisonous if breathed or eaten.
- Always keep chemical products in their original bottles or containers. Do not use food containers such as cups, bottles or jars to store chemical products such as cleaners or beauty products.
- Never mix cleaning products together. Mixing some products together can result in the release of toxic gasses.
- Wear protective clothing such as gloves, safety goggles, long sleeve shirts, long pants, shoes and socks hen spraying or spreading lawn chemicals or pesticides.
- Turn on exhaust fans or open a window when using cleaners in a room.
Remember, time is important if you suspect a child or adult has been poisoned. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call 9-1-1 immediately. If the victim is awake and alert, dial 1-800-222-1222 for the poison control center. Try to have the following information ready:
- The victim’s age and weight
- The original container or bottle of the poison if available
- The time that poison was inhaled or injested
- The address where the victim is located
Stay on the phone with poison control and follow the instructions from the emergency operator.