Poisoning is a serious public health problem but one that is preventable.
National Poison Prevention week, established by Congress in 1961, is this week.
We take time now to learn a little more about accidental poisoning risks for our senior loved ones and other family members because it is a serious public health problem.
The third week in March is set aside to increase awareness since the National Poison Control Center handles more than 2 million poisoning exposures a year!
In fact, there are 700,000 drug-related poisonings, resulting in emergency room visits a year. 35,000 people will die from poisonings.
Common sources of exposure include painkillers, sedatives, hypnotics, antipsychotics, household cleaning products, foreign objects, cosmetics and personal care products.
Many things can become poisons if used the wrong way, in the wrong amount or by the wrong person according to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).
Poison Control Information for You Family’s Safety
Here are some strategies for keeping your senior loved ones and other family members safe from poisoning.
- Whenever you suspect there is a possible ingestion of a harmful substance, contact the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. You might want to program this into your smartphone or landline for quick access. This helpline is available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.
- This number should be displayed in your home, either on the refrigerator or next to the telephone, so that it can be accessed immediately. Time matters when poisoning occurs. Don’t wait for symptoms to appear if you feel there was dangerous ingestion of a chemical.
- Stay calm, as not every intake is life threatening and it will help everyone if nobody panics.
- If someone gets a chemical in their eyes, rinse with running water for 15-20 minutes while someone else contacts the helpline.
- Be ready to tell the expert the information from the bottle, age and weight of the injured person, a brief medical history, how long since ingestion, symptoms and distance to nearest hospital.
- Keep an updated medication list for your senior loved one handy in case of emergency. If you suspect too much medication or the wrong medication, it is a good idea to contact Poison Control for advice.
Prevention Steps for Your Home This Spring
We need to continually examine our homes for any potential sources of poisoning for seniors and other family members, including visiting grandchildren. Here are some suggestions you can do now to prepare for spring.
- Check the household cleaning chemicals to be sure they are in the original containers clearly labeled with the name of the product. Never store chemicals in a food container.
- Be sure all cleaning and other chemicals are stored away from food storage and preparation areas. Keep colorful cleaning products such as laundry and dish detergent packets out of the reach of children or cognitively impaired adults.
- Never mix household chemicals and detergents. When disposing of chemicals, be sure to follow the directions on the label.
- When using household chemicals and cleaners, keep the area well ventilated and don’t spray in the direction of people or pets.
- Take precautions – including gloves, protective clothing and eye protection – when using chemicals such as oven cleaners, rust remover, bug repellent or drain cleaners. Be careful to stay clear of splashes. Chemicals can burn the skin when not handled properly.
- Keep cleaners and chemicals, including pesticides and bug killer, out of the reach of children and those with cognitive impairments.
- When disposing of containers such as those holding antifreeze, rinse with water to prevent accidental contact.
- Store flammable chemicals away from heat source.
- Use a digital thermometer instead of a glass mercury one to prevent exposure if broken. If a glass mercury thermometer is broken and you have a mercury spill, contact poison control to get guidance on disposing it because mercury is considered hazardous waste.
- Store all medications out of the reach of children, use original containers and protective lids. Review your medication list periodically with your primary doctor to prevent unknowingly ingesting duplicate doses of the same medications. Ensure loved ones take only those prescriptions meant for them and don’t share theirs with others. If needed, lock up medications for safety.
Poison Help is a program that is funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration, or HRSA, to help educate us and prevent poisoning. Their goal is to teach us how to respond if we are faced with a poisoning emergency.
To learn more or become involved in helping others, you can check out Poison Help online for resources. They have resources and information that can benefit you and your community.
While you can’t prevent every possible emergency situation that might arise, you can take every precaution to eliminate sources of poisoning for those who enter your home — and know what to do if you suspect someone has been poisoned.
Taking a few steps now can help you avoid trouble. This week is a good reminder to get busy poison-proofing your home!