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March 16-22: National Poison Prevention Week

Image of Margo KerriganMargo Kerrigan, M.P.H., Area Director
Indian Health Service California Area Office

March 16th through the 22nd 2008 has been designated National Poison Prevention Week. The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) reports that in 2006 over four million calls were made to poison control centers nationwide. Of these calls, 2.4 million calls involved actual exposure by humans to one or more poisons.1 The AAPCC created the National Poison Prevention Hotline: 1-800-222-1222. You may call this number if you or someone you know has ingested or has been exposed to a suspected poison, if you have questions about poisons, or if you want information regarding poison prevention. This is your convenient one-stop number for poison information.

In 2006 the AAPCC reported that they received over 1.2 million exposure calls involving children under the age of six, representing 60% of all exposure calls. They further reported in 2006 that 38% of all exposure calls involved children under the age of 3.2 Young children need to be taught about the dangers posed by poisons. Parents and guardians can help by letting their children know that:

  • Poisons may come as solids, liquids, sprays, or may even be invisible;
  • Some poisons may look like candy, food, or a favorite drink;
  • Some poisons may even smell good;
  • Some plants, berries, wild mushrooms, snakes, scorpions, and spiders may also be poisonous;
  • Poisons may be found in any room of the house, the garage, or outside;
  • They should never put something in their mouth or touch anything if they don't know what it is;
  • They should only take medicines that are given to them by a parent or guardian;
  • Sprays like sun block, hair treatments, or antiseptics should only be applied by a parent or guardian;
  • They should stay away from anything with this symbol on it: Skull and Crossbones Toxic Symbol

Visit http://www.poison.org/ Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov for additional suggestions.

In 2006 the AAPCC received 244,511 exposure calls regarding therapeutic medication errors representing over 10% of all exposure calls. Of these over 45% were due to the patient taking the incorrect dosage of medication.3 If you have any questions regarding how to take your medications, when to take your medications in relation to meals, potential side effects of medications, how to tell if your medications are working, what other medications or substances may interact with your medications, whether or not you may be allergic to a medication, when to take your medication if you have missed a dose, or what to do if you are experiencing a problem, please contact your physician or pharmacist.

California 2004 morbidity and mortality data shows that children under 10 years of age accounted for 7.1% of all non-fatal poisoning related hospitalizations, and 0.08% of all poisoning related deaths. Children and teens age 10 through 19 years of age accounted for 5.5%, and 1.5%, and seniors 65 years and older accounted for 27.3% and 3.4% respectively.4 Poisoning knows no age boundaries. Health care professionals, parents, teachers, and babysitters should educate themselves and others about poison prevention. Below are a number of suggestions on what you can do to prevent unintentional poisonings as well as a number of excellent online resources that are available. Please take a moment to see what you can do at home and at work to prevent unintentional poisonings.

Ensure that your children have an appropriate amount of supervision for their age. Keep small children in sight.

Leave toxic substances in their original, labeled containers. Never transfer any toxic substance into a container where it may be mistaken for a common food or drink (i.e. empty soda bottles, margarine containers, sports bottles, disposable cups, etc.).

Label everything that must be removed from its original package including flour, sugar, baking powder, pancake batter, and spices.

Find a place in the home to store purses, suit cases, brief cases, and lunchboxes containing cosmetics, toiletries, or medicines, that is well out of the reach of children.

Read the label on household cleaners before you use the product, following the directions on the label, keep the product with you while it is open, and return it to a locked cabinet when you are done. If you are interrupted by a phone call or there is someone at the door, bring the product with you. Do not mix household chemicals, and make sure they are used in an appropriately ventilated area.

Remove all outdated, expired, or un-needed medicines, chemicals, cleaners, pesticides, or rodenticides from the home. Dispose of any such items if the original packaging is rusted, deteriorated, or otherwise no longer intact. Follow the label instructions for disposal or call your refuse company to find a toxic substance disposal site.

Create a lockable space in your house for medicines and another for household cleaners, chemicals, or other toxic substances. This may be done by placing a keyed lock on a cabinet, closet, or small room in your house. If you choose a closet or room, install a lock that may be easily opened from the inside but not the outside. This will prevent you from locking yourself into the space. Make sure to store any flammable materials in approved containers in another room well away from heat sources.

Use child resistant caps on all medicines. If you have an elder in the household that cannot open child resistant medicine bottles, purchase a lockable security box or place the medicines in a keyed locked cabinet accessible only to adults. Keep medicine or pill boxes well out of children's reach.

Use child locks on all kitchen and bathroom cabinets and drawers that contain items dangerous to children.

Be an informed consumer before you buy, and check to see if any items you have in your home now have been recalled for any reason. Visit the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website at http://www.cpsc.gov/ Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov and select "Recalls and Product Safety News". Then select "Child Products", "Toys", and "Household Products". This site lists all of the current and past product recalls for any reason including products that pose a poisoning hazard.

Watch for current product recalls and sign up for e-mail notifications. You can do both by visiting http://www.usa.safekids.org/  Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov, and selecting "Product Recalls". This site tracks and displays recalls specific to children from the U.S. Product Safety Commission.

Purchase only items that are appropriate for the age of the child by reading age and safety labels on all items you are purchasing.

Be an informed gardener. Many household and garden plants are toxic. Keep plants out of reach of high chairs, play pens, and off of the floor where children crawl and play. Research the plants you have in the home currently, and buy only non-toxic plants in the future. This can be done online by visiting http://www.poison.org/prevent/plants.asp Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov. This website lists non-toxic and toxic plants by name along with a photograph. Remember that even relatively non-toxic items can be toxic in larger quantities or if the user is allergic to the item.

When leaving your children in the care of others prepare an information sheet with each child's: age, weight, allergies, medications, medical conditions, your physician's name and phone number, the National Poison Prevention Hotline number (1-800-222-1222), how to contact you in the event of an emergency, and who to call if you cannot be reached.

Never open yard or pool chemicals that have been setting out in the sun. Do not sniff the contents of something to identify the substance inside.

Use protective clothing when handling pesticides or other chemicals. Choose a windless day to use these chemicals. Always inspect the nozzle to insure that the spray exit point is pointed away from you and others and that you have the correct setting.

Follow the links below for more information about:

Poison Prevention Week:
http://www.poisonprevention.org/ Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov

The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC):
http://www.aapcc.org Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov

Brochure regarding the National Poison Prevention Hotline:
http://www.1-800-222-1222.info/poisonPrevention/brochure.asp Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov

Child safety:
http://www.usa.safekids.org/ Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov

Child Safety Checklists:
http://www.usa.safekids.org/tier3_cd.cfm?content_item_id=4370&folder_id=166 Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov
http://www.usa.safekids.org/poison/index.html Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov

Child Poison Prevention Education:
http://www.ipl.org/div/kidspace/ Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov

1National Poisoning and Exposure Database System (NPDS).
4California Department of Health Services California Injury Data 2004

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