Poison Prevention Should Extend Beyond Childhood

About half of calls made to poison control centers involve adults

  Leithold HSDAYTON, Ohio (December 15, 2014) – Most people think of children when it comes to the danger of poisoning, but it’s adults who suffer more serious poisoning injuries and deaths, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers Off Site Icon (AAPCC).

The number of children who have died from poisoning between 1999 and 2013 more than doubled, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Off Site Icon(CDC). However, history proves that poisoning isn’t just child’s play. Although children under the age of six accounted for half of all calls made to poison control centers in 2010, adults accounted for 92 percent of all poison-related deaths, the AAPCC said. 

Joseph Leithold, MD, a family physician at Woodcroft Family Practice said poisoning in young children is often accidental. It can be a result of children who unknowingly ingest harmful chemicals found in attractive, colorful bottles or prescription medications not properly put out of a child’s reach. Poisoning in adults can happen when someone fails to read instructions or seek help from friends or healthcare professionals when medication dosage may be confusing.

“In adults, most of our poisons are prescription medications that are not taken properly,” said Dr. Leithold, a Premier HealthNet physician in Centerville. “This can include pain medications, sedatives, anti-depressants and cardiac medications like blood thinners. Organic chemicals, pesticides and alcohol can also be sources of poisoning for adults.”

Adults can cause themselves harm when prescription medications such as insulin and blood thinners are not given in the proper doses or taken with over-the-counter medications that result in a negative reaction. 

“I have seen patients who have had hemorrhaging problems because they didn’t know the dangers of taking a blood thinner and a regular-dose aspirin at the same time,” Dr. Leithold said.

Dr. Leithold said that a person’s poisoning risks change with their age. Young children are at risk for poisons found in household cleaners or over-the-counter medication that is colorfully packaged and within their reach. Teenagers are often seen for accidental overdoses from prescription medications, hypnotics and narcotics. Young adults are at-risk for improper handling of household chemicals. And older adults can become poisoned from misuse of medication due to cognitive impairment or memory issues.

Regardless of the source, it is important to know the steps that should be taken when a suspected poisoning occurs. Symptoms of poisoning include excessive tearing, excessive saliva, diarrhea and abdominal cramping, seizures and passing out. The CDC gives these specific steps for individuals who suspect a poisoning: 

Get Help – The first priority is to remain calm, but the immediate response should be to call 911 for emergency help. Help can also be found by calling the national poison and control center at 1-800-222-1222.

Gather Facts – Know the suspected victim’s age and weight, if possible. Gather information about the suspected poison by reading a container’s label. Be ready to recite your address and time of poison exposure.

Be Present – Do not leave a person who has been injured and remain on the phone with emergency personnel until help arrives.

The best defense is making sure poisoning never takes place. Store household cleaners out of the reach of children, and keep prescription medications in their original containers and in a safe place. Carefully read directions as to how chemicals should be handled before using. Consult with a physician about the use of over-the-counter medication with prescription drugs. Do not share prescription medication and when taking medicine do it in a well-lit area so that the proper dosage is not compromised. 

For more information on poison prevention or to find a primary care physician, visit: http://www.premierhealthnet.com/doctor.

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