March is Poison Prevention Month
March is Poison Prevention Awareness Month and a great time for parents and caregivers as well as pet owners to learn prevention tips and what to do if accidental poisoning occurs.
Children are at the highest risk for unintentional poisoning because they are smaller and have a faster metabolic rate, their bodies are less able to handle toxins, and they have a natural curiosity and tend to put everything in their mouths. Fortunately, the death rate has declined in the last decade because of heightened awareness, child-resistant packaging, and a higher intervention rate by poison centers and health care providers.
Nearly 90 percent of poisonings happen in homes. In children under 5 years old, 60 percent of exposures are non-pharmaceutical products including cosmetics, household cleaners, plants, pesticides, art supplies, alcohol, and foreign bodies and toys. 40 percent of exposures are pharmaceutical related.
The Texas Poison Center is available 24/7 at 1-800-222-1222. Keep this number by the phone and in plain sight on the refrigerator. The lists below contain the most common hazards, but not all of them, so always read labels and take proper precautions.
If poisoning is suspected:
- Do not wait until victim begins to look or feel sick to call for help.
- Call 911 if victim becomes unconscious or stops breathing.
- Swallowed poisons – medicines – do not give anything by mouth and call poison center.
- Swallowed poisons – non-medicines – if victim can swallow give small amount of milk or water and call poison center.
- Do not try to make victim throw up unless told to do so by poison center, doctor, or emergency department.
- Inhaled poisons – get victim to fresh air and call poison center.
- Poisons on the skin – remove contaminated clothing, rinse skin with water for 10 minutes, and call poison center.
- Poison in eyes – rinse eyes with lukewarm water for 15-20 minutes and call poison center.
- Insect bites – remove stinger when possible and call poison center. If victim develops rash or breathing difficulty, call 911.
- Venomous snakebites – do not try to extract venom. Do not use ice or a tourniquet, and never try to catch the snake. Remove any jewelry, call poison center for instructions, and call 911 or go to the nearest hospital.
Poisons can be ingested in different ways including through eyes, on skin, inhaling them, or eating/drinking them, and there are many harmful substances in every home.
Safety tips for home and garage:
- Store all cosmetics, hair products, perfumes, makeup, fingernail polish/remover, mouthwash, etc. out of the reach and sight of children.
- Install latches/locks on drawers and cabinets that contain harmful substances.
- Keep laundry and household products including bleach, detergent, and fabric softener out of children’s reach and sight.
- Store pesticides, rat/mouse bait, slug/snail bait, fly bait, gasoline, paint, paint thinner, drain cleaner, pool chemicals, car products, fertilizer, etc. in a locked cabinet out of children’s reach.
- Do not transfer hazardous products to other containers. Store them in original containers.
- Never store hazardous materials under kitchen sink.
- Never keep medications on countertops or any easy to reach/see area such as bedside table.
- Kids love to imitate parents – do not take medicines in front of them.
- Use only child-resistant caps on medications.
- Keep alcoholic beverages out of children’s sight and reach.
- If medicine must be stored in refrigerator, ensure that it is out of children’s reach and sight.
- Never refer to medicine as “candy.”
- Be certain of correct dosage and measure carefully before giving medicine to children.
- If interrupted while giving medicine to a child, take the child or the medicine with you. Never leave the child alone with medicine.
- Many plants and flowers are poisonous. A few of the most popular, but hazardous plants are: lilies, tulip bulbs, azalea, oleander, cyclamen, tomato and potato plant leaves, lantana, morning glory, and caladium. This is not an exhaustive list – keep all plants/flowers out of children’s reach.
- Remember – children are fast and can find and ingest harmful poisons in a split second.
Senior citizens’ medication poisoning:
- Poisoning from medications is common among senior citizens.
- Help seniors develop a routine for taking medications and check that they are taken on time.
- If the senior has vision problems, help them read and understand instructions and dosage.
- Question physician about possible drug interaction problems.
- If medications are kept in daily pill-minders, keep them out of sight and reach of children, as 36% of poisonings in children happen in a grandparent’s home. Up to 20% of poisonings in children involve a grandparent’s medication, and 65% of seniors request non-child-resistant caps.
Carbon monoxide poisoning causes more than 500 deaths annually in the U.S and cannot be seen or smelled. Early symptoms include: headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea/vomiting, fast pulse, and visual changes.
To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Install detectors approved by Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.
- Have heating system inspected by a qualified technician before first use each winter.
- Clean chimney and flue and remove any obstructions.
- Follow manufacturer’s instructions when using gas, oil, or kerosene heaters. Allow for good ventilation.
- Never leave car running in a closed garage.
- Do not use gas ranges for heating.
- Do not burn charcoal or coal in a closed space, fireplace, or garage.
Pet owners must also watch for hazards, and many are the same as for humans. In addition to being aware of above items, remember that many products used outdoors, where pets stay much of the time, are poisonous.
Additional pet toxins:
- Foods/Beverages – avocado, chocolate, coffee, fatty foods, macadamia nuts, moldy/spoiled foods, onions, onion powder, raisins, grapes, salt, yeast dough, garlic, and products sweetened with xylitol.
- Medications – painkillers, anti-cancer drugs, diet pills, vitamins meant for humans, antidepressants, cold, blood pressure, and heart medicines.
- Miscellaneous – antifreeze, citronella candles, compost piles, liquid potpourri, ice melting products, flea products, and mothballs.
- Animal toxins – toads, snakes, scorpions, spiders, and insects.
Pet owners can call the ASPCA Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435 for poisoning emergencies.