Poison control centers across the country respond to more than two million calls a year about potential poisonings, and most of these occur right in the family home.
And these days, most poisonings can also be handled at home, not necessarily at the Emergency Department, says Public Health Educator Kristen Weinger, Blue Ridge Poison Control Center, Charlottesville. “Eight out of 10 calls received can be handled at home.”
Because of the high number of overdose deaths due to the opioid epidemic, poisoning deaths have becoming increasingly prevalent – surpassing car accidents as the primary cause of death. While nearly half of all calls are for children ages 5 and under, the majority of serious poisonings and fatal poisonings happen to adults ages 20 to 54.
Protecting your household
There are some surprising sources of poison these days within many homes. The liquid nicotine used in vaping devices can attract youngsters because of the various colors and flavors. But even a small amount, as little as one teaspoon, can cause severe illness or death. Button batteries, increasingly used in small electronic devices, can get stuck in a child’s intestinal tract and cause internal burning. Concentrated laundry pods can be deadly.
Other common sources of poison include medicines – both over the counter and prescription, vitamins and supplements; household cleaning solutions; hand sanitizer; and gasoline and antifreeze.
“If you suspect your child or anyone else in your home has been poisoned, do not hesitate! Call the Poison Control hotline immediately. In the old days, everyone used to have a bottle of ipecac in their medicine cabinet to induce vomiting. This is no longer recommended! Call Poison Control instead to find out what to do,” advises Weinger.
These days, it’s best to lock up or hide away any kind of prescription that has a pain relief or opioid component. “Strangers doing work in peoples’ homes have been known to steal medications from the bathroom cabinet. The same can be true for people you know. Teens may want to experiment. Children may be curious. Hide these medications and keep track of the pill count,” says Weinger.
Blue Ridge is one of the two Poison Control Centers located in Virginia. If you suspect you or someone else has been poisoned, call the National Hotline IMMEDIATELY: 1-800-222-1222.