Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pondering Poison Prevention


Poison Prevention

It’s National Poison Prevention Week!  Time to do a safety check with regard to often overlooked dangers in your homes and yards.  The potential poisons lurking in every room of your home.

In 2011, 3.6 million people in the US called Poison Control.  Approximately 2.3 million were regarding an accidental exposure, the rest were requests for information.  Half of those calls were in regard to exposures involving children under the age of 6.  That means half were for individuals older than 6, including teens and adults.

Toxic chemicals are all around your home, your garage and your yard.  There are dangers to your children, your pets and even to you!  Many of which you may not even be aware of!   Exposure and the effects can be instantaneous, or can evolve more slowly over a period of time where the dangers gradually build up in your body unbeknownst to you, disrupting normal processes years later and perhaps leading to cancers and other diseases later in life.  The choices you make today definitely have the potential to impact your health and safety now and in the future.  Awareness and prevention are the key.

Knowing what substances are poisonous, knowing how to prevent exposure to toxic substances and knowing what to do in the event of an accidental exposure is something every parent needs to know.  There are toxic substances in every room of your home!

The very first thing you need to know is who to call in the event of a known or suspected exposure to a poisonous substance.  IT IS NOT YOUR PEDIATRICIAN!  I know, it seems counterintuitive, right?  It’s actually the National Poison Control Center and the number is the same no matter where you are in the USA.  It’s 800-222-1222.  Right now, program it into your cell phone and put it on or next to every single phone in your house.   If you call your pediatrician, they will tell you to hang up and call poison control.   Don’t waste precious time!  Call the pediatrician after you call poison control.  The exception is if the child is not breathing, in which case you would initiate CPR and call 911.

When you call poison control, it will help them to know what the substance is (read from the label or describe it in as much detail as you can), how much of it you think your child was exposed to, how they were exposed, how long ago it happened and what the child is exhibiting for symptoms.  If you are not sure, make your best effort to identify what it could have been. They will then tell you what to do to treat it.  Do not do anything until you talk to poison control.  Don’t give your child food or water or try to induce vomiting unless poison control tells you to.  Doing those things could actually make it worse depending on what the substance is.  Follow the instructions of the poison control.  They will advise if you should go to the pediatrician or the ER. 


Now that you know what to do in the event of an exposure to a toxic or poisonous substance, let’s talk about what some common ones are and then what steps you can take to prevent an accidental exposure.  It’s important to understand that there are different types of exposures and they can all be dangerous.  Exposure can be through ingestion (eating or drinking), inhalation or by breathing in the chemicals or through absorption through the skin.
Common household poisons:
·         Cleaning supplies
·         Medicines both prescription and over the counter. 
·         Vitamins
·         Plant food and lawn care products
·         Pesticides, including those on the foods you buy.  Check out this Shopping app
·         Air fresheners and room sprays
·         Perfume
·         Personal care products including common children’s bath products.  This includes shampoos and conditioners, soaps and body wash, toothpaste and oral care substances, hair care products, hairsprays and more.
·         Laundry detergent and dishwasher packets
·         Make up, nail polish and remover
·         Certain common household and yard plants
·         Carbon monoxide
·         Radon
·         Raw or undercooked foods or those not properly refrigerated (bacteria and food poisoning)
·         Alcohol (both the kind you drink and the kind in hand sanitizers and mouthwash)
·         Recreational drugs
·         Insect and snake bites
·         Antifreeze, windshield washer fluid, gasoline, car care supplies, lighter fluid, lamp oil
·         Recreational drugs, particularly for teens (including ‘newer’ drugs like ‘bath salts’, cinnamon challenge, synthetic marijuana)
·         Misuse of foods/chemicals like nitrous oxide, helium, energy drinks/caffeine
·         Heavy Metals like Lead (paint, some personal care products), Mercury (light bulbs if broken, fish) and Arsenic (can be in water supply, especially well water)
·         Mold

The Massachusetts and Rhode Island Regional Poison Control Center has some great resources for you and your family on poison prevention.  Some of my favorites include Top 10 poison exposures to children, Safer Alternatives to Household Cleaning Products, What is Carbon Monoxide poisoning, Safe Plants, and Poisonous Plants.

Some other great resources include the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetics Data Base where you can look up your family’s personal care products to find out how toxic they are. It is also a wonderful way to search for safer products for your family. The EWG’s Healthy Home Tips for Parents is another great resource.  Many of the ingredients in everyday products are made with known carcinogens, endocrine disruptors and other dangerous substances.  Repeated exposure can contribute to many illnesses and disorders.

Don’t forget keeping your fur babies safe!  The ASPCA Pet Poison Prevention Center is a great resource for keeping your pets safe.  Many of the same things that are toxic to our children are also toxic to our pets.  Some common household items that are not dangerous to humans can be deadly to pets. 

In order to prevent accidental exposure to toxic substances be sure your home is properly childproofed.  Here are some helpful tips:
·         Keep all dangerous chemicals and medicines both prescription and over the counter out of sight, out of reach and in a securely locked cabinet away from children. 
·         Never put chemicals in an unlabeled container, always keep them in their original container. 
·         Never tell a child that medicine is ‘candy’.  Explain what the medicine is for.  Don’t flavor medicines to taste good to get kids to take them.
·         Be careful with look-alike substances.  Medicine and candy, colored beverages and medicines/cleaning supplies and personal care products packaged, named or flavored like foods can be confusing and potentially deadly to children who think they are safe to eat or drink.
·         Be sure children know to always ask you if it’s safe to eat something they’ve found or been given by a friend. 
·         Know CPR and First Aid. 
·         Choose products that are free from toxic or dangerous chemicals using the EWG’s Skin Deep Web site as a guide. 
·         Purchase carbon monoxide detectors for every level of your home. 
·         Test your home for radon, kits are found at home improvement stores. 
·         Don’t leave your purse or diaper bag where it can be reached by children, you’d be surprised the potential dangers in them!  
·         Educate your children about the dangers of recreational drugs and misuse of OTC and prescription drugs from an early age, including alcohol. 
·         Never leave alcoholic beverages unattended when children are around. 
·         Be sure everyone who cares for your children knows the Poison Control Number 800-222-1222


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