Drawing attention to poisoning danger is more urgent today than ever before. Poisoning now ranks as the leading cause of death from unintentional injuries, ahead of vehicle accidents and guns. More than 2 million poisonings are reported each year to the 57 poison control centers across the country. More than 90 percent of these poisonings occur in the home. The majority of nonfatal poisonings occur in children younger than 6. And, poisoning is one of the leading causes of death among adults.
Each year the Bradley County Health Department works with the Tennessee Poison Center to spread the word about the danger of accidental poisoning. The TPC is the state’s only poison center and serves all 95 counties with a Poison Help medical hotline.
If the unthinkable happens, help is a phone call away by dialing 1-800-222-1222. I suggest posting this number on your fridge or saving it on your cellphone. The TPC hotline received 102,944 calls in 2012 and was able to provide free treatment advice and guidance during critical situations.
Poison prevention is for everyone, from children to seniors, and being alert to poisoning dangers spans a lifetime and is a good investment in reducing the growing cost of health care. Each $1 spent to fund the Poison Center saves about $7 in unnecessary costs. Some 72 percent of those who call the TPC Hotline are treated at home, saving a trip to their doctor or a hospital. In 2012, the TPC saved Tennessee taxpayers an estimated $14 million by preventing emergency room visits for the uninsured.
If you have questions about poison safety in your home or workplace, the Tennessee Poison Center can help. The staff there can offer advice on household products; chemicals at work or in the environment; prescription, over-the-counter or illegal drugs; chemical terrorism; and even snake and spider bites. The TPC also offers practical advice on a number of topics such as why you should read the label on medicines.
There are also a number of things you can do to ensure that your home or workplace is safe from a poisoning accident. Poisons can look like food or drink to children so it is important to teach children to ask an adult before eating or drinking anything.
Use child-resistant packaging, but remember that nothing is childproof. If you have a young child who is able to crawl or walk, keep household plants and products stored above floor level, not beneath the sink. The TPC says children learn by imitation so it is a good idea to take your medicine where children cannot watch. For your own safety, always turn on a light when taking or giving medicines. They should never be taken in the dark.
In addition, store all medicines away from household products and food, and never put medicine or a chemical in a cup or soft drink bottle. Following these simple steps could help prevent an accidental poisoning in your home and possibly save a life.
Poison Prevention Week is a good idea and has helped raise awareness of the dangers of accidental poisoning. However, when it comes to the safety of your children and other loved ones who may require special medical assistance, I urge you to make every week Poison Prevention Week in your home and workplace.
For more information about poison prevention, visit the American Association of Poison Control Centers website at www.aapcc.org.