LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 21, 2014) — National Poison Prevention Week is March 16-21, 2014, as designated by the U.S. Congress. Each year, more than 2 million poisonings are reported to the nation’s poison centers.
According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, approximately 90 percent of poisonings happen at home, mostly in kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms, and 51 percent of poisonings involve children under the age of 6. The Health Services and Resources Administration reports that poisonings cause more than 35,000 deaths per year, and that 90 percent of those deaths are among adults over the age of 20.
The top five causes of poisoning include painkillers; cosmetics and personal products; household cleaning products; sedatives, hypnotics and antipsychotic medicine; and foreign objects like toys. Carbon monoxide is also a significant poison risk in the home.
According to Dr. Susan Pollack, director of the Pediatric and Adolescent Injury Prevention Program at the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center, specific high-risk items vary for different age groups. Medication poisoning is particularly common among youngsters.
"For kids, some of the most common poisonings are due to getting into blood pressure and psychiatric meds of family members, which causes the risk of cardiac rhythm toxicity," she said. "Another major lethal risk for kids is getting into long-acting opioids, such as oxycontin and the newly released crushable pain meds."
Safe Kids Worldwide reports that every eight minutes, a child age 4 and under goes to the emergency department for medicine poisoning, and every minute of every day, a poison control center answers a call about a young child getting into medicine. Three out of four emergency department visits for medicine poisoning are due to children getting into parents' or grandparents' medicine.
Safe Kids also found that a significant increase in the numbers of grandparents living with grandchildren (a 23 percent increase since 2005) has resulted in increased exposure of children to adult medicines.
Keeping kids safe around medicines requires storing medicine where children can't see or access it — not, for example, in purses, on counters, or in nightstands. Choosing child-resistant caps for medicine bottles can also reduce poison risk.
While medication safety is of utmost importance in preventing poisoning, Pollack also points out other risks for children in the home.
"For toddlers, some the most lethal things include drain cleaner and dishwasher soap, especially the new single packets of washing machine soap in bright colors that look like candy and have become a significant problem," she said. "And lead and cadmium poisoning from cheap jewelry and toys also continues to be a problem."
Art supplies, insect repellents and insecticides, plants, and chemicals also pose a threat to children.
For more information about poison-proofing your home, visit http://poisonhelp.hrsa.gov/what-can-you-do/poison-proof-your-home/index.html.
If you or someone you know may have been poisoned, or if you have questions, call the Poison Help Line at 1-800-222-1222. Program the number into your phone in case of emergency, and share the number with friends and family.
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