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Medication Misuse Leading Cause of Adult Poisoning Deaths

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

INDIANAPOLIS - 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, a nurse specialist at the Drug and Poison Information Center at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, said 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," she said. "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 said, seek medical help immediately.

In 2014, the Indiana Poison Center received more than 57,000 requests for assistance. The number to call for help is 1-800-222-1222.

Most poisonings involve children under age 5, Behrman said, and include exposure to cosmetics, household cleaners and pain medications. She said there are signs that indicate a child was exposed to something dangerous.

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

More than 2 million poisonings are reported annually to the 56 poison-control centers around the nation. Adults account for most poison-related deaths, Behrman said, mainly because of the misuse or overuse of drugs or medications.

"Take and give medications safely," she said. "Always read the label and always follow directions. 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."

Medications, cleaning products and outdoor chemicals should be kept out of the reach of little ones. Behrman said, adding that people should never mix chemical products because it could create a poisonous gas.

More information is online at indianapoison.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN