National Poison Prevention Week marks 50-year anniversary with public outreach

UTAH – From March 18-24, the Utah Poison Control Center will team up with educators and health care providers across the state to promote public awareness of National Poison Prevention Week.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the program, born out of a joint effort between Congress and President Kennedy, who in 1962 issued an executive order declaring the third week of March National Poison Prevention Week. Today, poison control centers throughout the country participate in NPPW by distributing educational materials to doctors, pharmacists and child care providers.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, more than 2 million potential poisonings are reported every year, over half of which involve children under 6 years of age. It is estimated that over 1,000 individuals in the United States die from poison each year, standing only behind automobile accidents as the leading cause of accidental deaths.

Cleaning/cooking products, prescription medications, pesticides, plants, bites, stings, food and vapors are the most common culprits in accidental human poisoning. But four-legged members of the household are also at risk. Many seemingly harmless herbs and even fruits such as apricots can be deadly. Pets are also prone to drinking toxic substances such as antifreeze and gasoline. The National Capital Poison Center has a list of the most common poisons in both adults and children here.

“There is a variety of potential poisons in and around your homes,” said Marty Malheiro, outreach coordinator for the UPCC. “Something as common as mouthwash or Tylenol can be deadly to a toddler.”

David Heaton, public information officer for the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, said: “Children can often mistake a bottle of floor cleaner for juice or pills for candies. [It is crucial] to keep those things away from them. We have many cases of accidental prescription medication overdoses in this state and many are kids.”

The AAPCC offers parents the following guidelines to help prevent accidental poisoning of children:

•  Thoroughly read product labels and follow the given directions.

•  Install a carbon monoxide alarm in your home.

•  Buy products with child-resistant labels.

•  Keep contact information for your local poison control center on hand.

•  Do not store medicines and household products near food.

•  Keep medicines and household products out of the reach of children and pets or locked away.

•  Teach children to ask an adult before tasting any food or drink.

•  Immediately call (800) 222-1222 if you suspect someone may have ingested poison.

Though poisoning symptoms vary based on the type of substance ingested, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, excessive sweating and abdominal pain are among the most common. Pets can suffer from convulsions, lethargy, diarrhea, vomiting and breathing difficulties.

“Don’t wait for the [symptoms] to show up,” urged Malheiro. “Poison centers nationwide have specially trained nurses to provide treatment advice for poisonings 24 hours a day. The sooner a call is made, the better the outcome [will be.]”

For further reading about preventing accidental poisonings in your family, please visit the following: Safe Kids USA and Up and Away. Educational materials can also be downloaded from the UPCC’s website and printed.

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Copyright 2012 St. George News. 

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