Did you know that every 13 seconds in the U.S., a poison control center is contacted regarding a potential poisoning? A majority of these poisonings (>90%) occur in the home, and can result from a myriad of household substances, some of which are used on a regular basis. Poisoning is in fact one of the leading causes of death in adults, while most of the non-fatal poisonings happen to children younger than six years of age. Though poisoning is not always fatal, it can have long term health effects that can be profoundly detrimental to one's quality of life.
According to the Poison Control Center:
- Most poisonings involve medicines, vitamins, home cleaning products, illegal drugs, and even household plants.
- In the U.S., a majority of poisonings result from drug overdoses.
- Exposure to poisons can occur by ingestion through the mouth; by inhalation through the mouth or nose; through the eyes; by absorption through the skin; or through a sting or bite.
- Heavy metals are poisonous but are often found in most households. They include arsenic, lead, mercury, thallium, and cadmium.
- Elderly people succumb to poisoning more quickly, accounting for 16% of poisoning deaths.
- Many poisons are beneficial in small amounts, including vitamins, medicine, antibiotics, and the fluoride found in toothpaste.
- Children under the age of 6 years are the most vulnerable.
- Poisoning can result from eating food contaminated with pathogenic organisms (food poisoning).
The good news is that poisoning is largely preventable. By educating your family and employing the proper measures to keep poisons out of the hands of vulnerable individuals, you can make a big difference in protecting your family from these dangers.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that parents take these important steps to help protect their family:
- Never refer to medicine as candy. This can lead to dangerous misunderstandings.
- Leave the poison help number near every phone (1-800-222-1222) and program it into your cell phone. The line is open 24/7.
- Store all medicine out of sight and beyond the reach of children.
- Teach your kids about poisonous plants around your house and remove them whenever possible.
- When giving medicine to children, practice the following:
- Never leave medicine on the counter where kids can reach them.
- Secure the child safety cap every time.
- Put medicine away immediately after usage.
- At night, turn on lights to ensure proper dosage.
- Do not mix cleaning products and keep them in their original containers.
- Safely discard old cleaning products in your basement or garage.
- Read all products labels to see what is dangerous to children.
- Get a carbon monoxide alarm.
- Discard unused medication properly as per Federal Guidelines.
It is important for parents to take the dangers of poison seriously, because they exist in virtually every home, and it only takes young children a few seconds to expose themselves.
If you have questions or concerns, visit the website for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where you can find more information about handling and storing poison, what to do in the event of a poisoning, as well as a planner to help make your home more poison-safe.