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Poison Control: Safety Tips for National Poison Prevention Week

National Poison Prevention Week Graphic

In 2021, Poison Control reported that their 55 hotlines across the country answered more than

two million calls related to potential human poisonings; in addition, the hotlines addressed more than 66K pet poisonings. The most common substances implicated in poisonings per Poison Control are cosmetics or personal care products (representing 10.8 percent of poisonings). Cleaning products were implicated in 10.7 percent of cases. Analgesic poisonings were the leading cause of poisoning deaths (more than 20 percent of fatal cases).

To raise awareness about accidental poisonings, America’s Poison Centers sponsor the annual public service campaign National Poison Prevention Week during the third week of March. The 2024 campaign theme is “When the Unexpected Happens, Poison Help is here for you 24/7.” 

To support this important campaign, the crews at Black Jack are highlighting common poisons lurking at home and how to handle a potential poisoning.

Table of Contents:

Unintentional Poisoning Statistics

The Most Common Types of Poisoning

How to Prevent Poisoning

  • Stock a First Aid Kit to Prepare for an Accidental Poisoning

  • Narcan: A Life-Saving Antidote for Accidental Opioid Overdoses

  • Know How to Identify the Poison Symbol

Call Poison Control!

Key Takeaways:

Protect against potential poisonings by storing medications and chemicals properly. First aid kits also should include remedies for aiding potential poisoning.

Unintentional Poisoning Statistics

Poisoning calls are divided into two major types of incidents: accidental and intentional. Poison Control reports that 99 percent of poisoning incidents for children (less than six years of age) were classified as unintentional. Poisoning calls for teens, however, exhibited a different pattern; only 29.1 percent of teen poisonings were classified as unintentional. 

While most poisoning incidents among teens were considered intentional, the trend for adult poisonings included a mix of causes. The vast majority of adult poisonings (62.4 percent) were the result of accidental consumption, medication error, or another unintentional cause. Only around 37 percent of adult poisoning incidents were intentional.

The Most Common Types of Poisoning

What substances are the most common poisons? The most common poisons differed between children and adults. The most commonly reported poisons for children were: 

  • Cosmetics / Personal Care Products

  • Cleaning Substances (home)

  • Analgesics (pain medications)

  • Dietary Supplements / Vitamins / Herbs / Homeopathic

  • Foreign Bodies / Toys / Misc. (like button batteries)

The vast majority of adult poisonings, however, were tied to pharmaceuticals. Analgesics were the leading cause of adult poisonings (more than 11 percent of cases), followed by Sedative/Hypnotics/Antipsychotics (7.5 percent), Antidepressants (7.1 percent), Cardiovascular drugs (6.8 percent), and cleaning substances (home).  

How to Prevent Poisoning

For young children, accidental poisoning is the most common type of poisoning incident reported to Poison Control hotlines. Parents can and should take action to prevent accidental ingestion of harmful substances. Take these five steps to minimize the risk of accidental poisonings:

Child Grabbing a Bottle of Bleach

  1. Install child locks on all cabinets that contain chemicals and cleaners. These locks keep little hands out of dangerous places while allowing parents to access cleaners and chemicals. Child locks for cabinets are easy to install and fairly inexpensive, too. 

  2. Use the childproof capabilities on all medication bottles. All pharmacies (and even OTC medications) use lids on medications that lock. However, some parents flip the lid upside down to make it easier to open the bottle. When young children are in the home, ALWAYS use the childproof side of the lid. This ensures that children cannot access prescription medications or OTC medication that could lead to accidental overdose or poisoning.

  3. Place dangerous chemicals and substances on high shelves. Not all parents install child locks on cabinets. If these locks are not an option, choose to store all chemicals and substances on a high shelf that is impossible for children to access. 

  4. Never let children take medication unsupervised. Some antibiotics and pain relievers taste yummy. Gummy vitamins also mimic the look of candy. Children could easily mistake these medications for treats and overdose.

  5. Remember that chemicals and medication are not the sole sources of poisoning. Button batteries are commonly swallowed by young children, leading to poisoning. Keep these batteries somewhere safe and out of reach of children. 

First aid kit with scissors and gauze

Stock a First Aid Kit to Prepare for an Accidental Poisoning

Most individuals and families keep a first aid kit at home and in the car. These kits typically include bandages, ointment, small scissors, tweezers, and medication. Does your first aid kit prepare you to take action in the event of an accidental poisoning? It should!

In the past, medical professionals recommended that parents administer Ipecac syrup to induce vomiting when a child accidentally ingested a harmful substance. However, doctors no longer advise this treatment; the syrup can be dangerous. 

Activated charcoal is sometimes recommended in the event of accidental poisoning. Parents can keep this in a first aid kit, but activated charcoal must only be used under the advice of a medical professional.

Narcan: A Life-Saving Antidote for Accidental Opioid Overdoses

Opioid addiction has become an epidemic. In fact, 11 percent of adult poisonings were attributed to analgesic medications, and analgesic poisoning was the leading cause of poisoning deaths among adults. Fentanyl overdose and access to this dangerous analgesic on the street have contributed to countless overdoses, and, unfortunately, many have been fatal. 

In the event of an accidental overdose of an opioid (including fentanyl), administering a dose of Narcan could save a life. Narcan is available over the counter as a nasal spray and can be kept at home or in a first aid kit for the car. 

Poison Symbol

Know How to Identify the Poison Symbol

The symbol for poison is universal. Everyone should learn to identify it; parents should teach their children to look for it in any substance to understand its potential harm. The symbol for poison is a skull and crossbones. When you see the skull, know that the substance is potentially lethal!

Call Poison Control!

Stay safe and protect against potential poisonings by storing chemicals and substances away from small hands. Pack a first aid kit that also contains activated charcoal or Narcan. When accidents happen, and poisoning is suspected, Black Jack Fire recommends calling Poison Control. The Missouri Poison Center takes calls every day (even on holidays). The medical professionals staffing the line provide advice on how to handle a potential poisoning and when to seek treatment. The Missouri Poison Center hotline is (800) 222-1222.

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