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Poison Prevention Week: Protecting Young and Old

PHOTO: It's National Poison Prevention Week. Experts say adults account for most poison-related deaths, mainly due to misuse or overuse of drugs or medications. Photo credit: DodgertonSkillhause/Morguefile.
PHOTO: It's National Poison Prevention Week. Experts say adults account for most poison-related deaths, mainly due to misuse or overuse of drugs or medications. Photo credit: DodgertonSkillhause/Morguefile.
March 16, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. - Infant or senior, it doesn't matter the age, poisoning is the leading cause of injury death. It's National Poison Prevention Week and experts are reminding people of ways to respond to and prevent poisonings.

Alysha Behrman, nurse specialist with the Drug and Poison Information Center at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, says 90 percent of all poisonings occur in the home and it's crucial to act quickly.

"If there's no symptoms initially, call the poison control center where we can ask questions, find out what happened, and then give medical advice over the phone," says Behrman. "The majority of our exposure calls are actually managed at home, and do not require emergency medical care."

But if the person is unconscious or having a seizure, Behrman says seek medical help immediately. In North Carolina, call the Poison Help Line for assistance, at 1-800-222-1222.

The North Carolina Division of Public Health says in a single year, more than 900 people died from unintentional poisoning in the state - a death rate higher than the national average.

Behrman says most poisonings involve children under age five and include exposure to cosmetics, household cleaners and pain medications. She adds there are signs that indicate a child was exposed to something dangerous.

"Sometimes, you'll notice they're drooling excessively. They might have redness around their mouth, they might be crying, they're acting more tired than normal," she says. "If they're acting more excitable or have more energy than normal. Any of those could be indications."

More than two million poisonings are reported annually to the 56 poison control centers around the U.S. Behrman says adults account for most poison-related deaths, mainly due to the misuse or overuse of drugs or medications.

"Take and give medications safely, always read the label and always follow directions," says Behrman. "Only give medications with the lights on and with glasses on, if needed, to make sure that you can see the label and dose appropriately."

She stresses that medications, cleaning products and outdoor chemicals should be kept out of the reach of little ones - and says never mix chemical products, because it could create a poisonous gas.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC