It is time to announce that this week – March 20 – 26,  is National Poison Prevention Week.  In the United States, it is reported that sixty-one poison control centers receive more than four million calls each year regarding how to deal with poison.  The American Association of Poison Control Centers reports that the majority of non-fatal poison incidents involve children younger than six years old, and 90% of the time these incidents happen in the home.  The same association, (AAPCC) reports that poisoning is one of the leading causes of death among adults.  This is a warning to all of us that we should be constantly aware of the threat of poisoning on an every-day basis; hopefully, this week will bring more understanding of the threat of poisonous substances, and how to prevent it. 

Prevention is the key to keeping children safe.  Toddlers are especially curious, and they’ll try just about anything.  If you have children in your home, or visiting your home, you should have all medicines under lock and key.  Do not take medications in front of children – they learn by imitation.  Take your meds where children can’t watch.  Also, never refer to pills or liquid meds as candy when you are encouraging a child to take their medicine.  If you carry pills in your purse, be sure they are in a tamper-proof bottle; even so, they are not child-proof, so you should provide constant supervision. 

Children can also be unintentionally exposed to harmful pesticides and cleaning products.  These items should be locked up so they cannot harm youngsters.  Poison control centers receive many calls from adults who believe they may have exposed to hazardous chemicals contained in pesticides and/or household cleaners.  Be sure to read the directions and caution labels on these products, never mixing household and chemical products together, as this could create a poisonous gas.  Wear protective clothing, such as long sleeve shirts, long pants, shoes and socks, gloves, and eye protection, when spraying chemicals.  Pesticides can be absorbed through the skin and can be extremely poisonous.  

 A reaction to certain medications can cause a different type of poisoning.  Consult your doctor or pharmacist if you are concerned about this, and also, don’t mix drugs and alcohol.  Certain drugs interact dangerously with food or other medicines.  Be sure your doctor knows all medicines, either prescription or over-the-counter, that you are currently taking.  Never give your prescription medicine to anyone else.  Dispose of old or outdated medicines safely.  

Animals can fall victim to poison, as well.  Be sure if you spray your yard, to keep your animal in the house until the pesticide or chemical you have sprayed has dried or been watered into the ground.  Also, keep harmful products where they cannot get into them.  Our “grandpug” got into some medicine that was stored with the dog food in a lower cabinet, and the other four dogs in the family got into it after he scattered it all over the kitchen!  All five dogs had to have their stomachs pumped, and it was determined that three of them had ingested some of the meds.  Thankfully, they were all alright; but I am thankful that I didn’t have to pay that vet bill! 

Since it is the beginning of spring, we want to also warn you that snakes and other critters will start slithering around.  This is another type of poison that you don’t want to have to deal with.  Our daughter was bitten by a rattlesnake when she was 16; she spent a week in the hospital, followed by several weeks of physical therapy.  It was a very painful experience for her.  In the United States, venomous snakes that we have to contend with are cottonmouths/water mocassins, rattlesnakes, pit vipers, and copperheads.  If a person is bitten by a snake, they should seek medical treatment immediately, and try to remain calm.   There are antidotes used to treat snake bites, once testing for allergies is done.  Most hospitals are stocked with the appropriate anti-venom medicines. 

Hopefully, this message will help us all be more aware of the potential harm that can come to anyone, our children, grandchildren, and our pets if we are not cautious about dangerous substances in our homes.  We must be vigilant in watching the children, what they are putting in their mouths, and all the harmful products that are sitting around in our cabinets or storerooms.  If there is any question that someone has been exposed to or ingested a harmful ingredient, call the National Poison Center hotline at 1-800-222-1222.  Keep that number handy, just in case!