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Poison Prevention Month

March is Poison Prevention Month. Each year, U.S. Poison Centers receive more than four million poisoning exposures calls.  The Illinois Poison Center (IPC) handles over 80,000 calls annually via its FREE, confidential helpline (1-800-222-1222).  Half of the calls involve children of 5 years of age or under. However, many of the most serious cases involve an adult. Calls range from people exposed to a variety of substances that can be potentially harmful causing minimal to fatal reaction including:

  • medications,
  • vitamins/supplements,
  • plants,
  • chemicals household/automotive products,
  • insect/animal bites and stings,
  • lead, and
  • carbon monoxide.

Accidental Drug Overdoses

For many of the children involved, they did not know what they were doing when they opened a prescription bottle and swallowed all of the medicine. Researchers say emergency rooms treat more than 60,000 young children in the U.S. each year for accidental overdoses. Generally, they got into medicines when their parent or caregiver failed to notice. Prescription bottles are child-resistant, not child proof. Children can open the bottles and take these very dangerous medications.

To combat the problem, the Center of Disease Control (CDC) and a coalition of health partners recently launched the “Up and Away and Out of Sight” campaign to encourage parents to protect children from accidental drug overdoses. They recommend the following steps:

  • Put all medications and vitamins in a place children can’t reach.
  • Put medicines and vitamins away every time you use them. Never leave them out on a kitchen counter or at a sick child’s bedside, even if you have to give the medicine again in a few hours.
  • Listen for the click to make sure the safety cap on medicines is locked.
  • Teach children about medicine safety. Never tell children that medicine is candy to get them to take it.
  • Tell guests about medicine safety. Ask house guests and visitors to keep purses, bags, and coats that have medicines in them up and away and out of sight when they are visiting.
  • Be prepared in case of emergency. Program the poison control phone number into home and cell phones.

We also recommend a prescription lock box to keep prescription out of the hands of children. Doctors across the country also recommend these lock boxes to combat the ongoing opioid epidemic.

R.F. Wittmeyer

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