Written by PGY-2 Emergency Medicine Pharmacy Resident Jonathan Summerlin, PharmD
Each year since 1961, the third full week of March is designated as ‘National Poison Prevention Week’. Poison Control Centers and toxicologists across the country use this week as an opportunity to provide public education regarding poisoning prevention.
The Number You Never Outgrow
Each regional Poison Control Center is reached by calling the Poison Help Hotline at 1-800-222-1222. The call is free and confidential.
A nurse, pharmacist, or physician with advanced training in poisoning treatments will be there to assist with your call, making treatment recommendations and documenting the exposure.
You should call following any exposure to household cleaning products, venomous snakes or spiders, carbon monoxide, or any other harmful substance.
Exposures to harmful substances can occur at any age.
Eventually, as we continue to age, more medications may be added to our growing list or certain medications may be changed for a similar medication. This can lead to confusion for a number of reasons.
When a medication is stopped and replaced with another one, there is always the risk of miscommunication. This can cause someone to take both the medication that was supposed to be discontinued and the medication that is replacing it.
You should always feel free to double-check prescriptions and doses with your doctor or pharmacy, if you’re unsure.
Kids Are Curious
Children are particularly vulnerable to harmful exposures, since they are at an age of exploration.
A family member’s medications, household cleaning products, and button batteries are a few items a child may be exposed to that could require urgent or emergent treatment. It is important to ensure that these products are kept out of the reach of children or locked away. As children get older, it may be beneficial to have a conversation with them about the harm that can result from exploration with products that they are not familiar with.
In a household of multiple children, it is also an unfortunately common occurrence to give a child his or her sibling’s medication dose. Many medications are dosed by a child’s weight and a simple mix up has the potential for harm. You can ensure that the correct medication dose is being given to the right child by placing each child’s medication in different locations and administering medications at specified times throughout the day.
Adolescents Are Adventurous
As kids get older, the risk of exposures to harmful substances continues.
Exploring the outdoors can open up the possibility of running into venomous animals such as snakes, spiders, caterpillars, fish, jellyfish and more. If a snake or spider is spotted, it is important to avoid them because it can be difficult to identify which species are venomous. If bitten/stung by a snake, spider, or other potentially venomous animal, always seek medical attention.
Adults Are Still At Risk
Although we may think of ourselves as less at risk for accidental exposures as we venture into adulthood, the opposite may be true.
Getting older may bring with it the risk of exposures to chemical substances either at work or while doing chores around the house. A common exposure can occur when cleaning products are placed in every day containers, like a sports drink bottle. It is best to avoid placing chemicals in drinking containers because it can lead to accidental ingestions by someone mistakenly believing it is a beverage.
Additionally, the initiation of new medications leads to the possibility of taking more than is recommended if we do not get the desired effects. This scenario frequently occurs with over the counter medications. It is recommended to always read the label on over the counter and prescription medications and never take more than what is written on that label.
If any of the examples outlined above or another type of exposure occurs, contact the Poison Help Hotline for guidance at 1-800-222-1222.
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Sarasota Memorial Emergency Medicine Pharmacy Resident Jonathan Summerlin, PharmD, is trained to treat a wide variety of emergency situations and accidental poisonings. He shares his insights with Healthe-Matters to help prevent them from happening to you and your loved ones..