We refer to accidental poisoning which is now the leading cause of death from unintentional injuries in the United States.
It will surprise many to know this home recipe for disaster has overtaken motor vehicle crashes and guns as the biggest unintended threat to human life, according to information from the Tennessee Poison Center.
The subject surfaces today, not because it lessens the controversy surrounding any of the aforementioned public issues, but because this is National Poison Prevention Week. From March 17-23, organizations like our state’s TPC are working diligently to make people and their communities aware of what can be called, at best, the “hidden dangers” of any home.
When considering the hazards of accidental poisoning, it is important to remember the term is not exclusive to substances whose sole intent is to kill; that is, powder, pellets or other materials used in the extermination of rodents, insects and other pests.
In the context of this week of awareness, accidential poisoning also points to medicines, household chemicals or other common materials around the house that may be ingested by children or in some cases inattentive adults.
To help make our point, here are some tips offered by TPC that can benefit any family or household in storing potential poisons:
- Store all medicines away from household products and food.
- Never put any medicine or chemical in a cup or soft drink bottle.
- Keep medicine and household products in their original containers.
- Use child-resistant packaging; but remember, nothing is totally childproof.
- If you have a young child who is able to walk or crawl, keep household plants and products stored above floor level, not beneath the sink.
Here are a few more helpful tips, this time in the use of potential poisons:
- Read the label on all medicines and household products, and heed all warnings.
- If children are at home while the product or medicine is in use, keep it with you at all times such as when answering the door or phone.
- Lock up products and medicines after using them.
- If it is medicine, call it “medicine” in front of children — not “candy.”
- Because children learn by imitation, take medications where children can’t watch.
- Always turn on the light when giving or taking medicines; never use medicines in the dark.
- Because poisons can look like food or drink, teach children to ask an adult before eating or drinking anything.
Accidental poisoning is real. It can hit any household, but prudence and attention to detail can reduce the risk of such tragedies. Last year, the TPC Poison Help Hotline received 102,994 calls. TPC provides free treatment advice and information for anyone in Tennessee in case of possible poisoning. This includes parents, teens, senior adults, pediatricians, emergency medical staff, school nurses and guidance counselors.
According to organizational material, TPC is the state’s only poison control center and it serves all 95 counties. Not only does it save lives, it also saves dollars in unnecessary health care costs. For those wishing to post the TPC number in a conspicuous spot at home such as the refrigerator door, in their vehicles or in their cellphones, it is 1-800-222-1222.
National Poison Prevention Week has been around since earning a presidential proclamation in 1962. The observance is there for a reason: Awareness, education and information.
And, it saves lives.
We urge Cleveland and Bradley County residents to take stock of their own habits at home to determine what is safe, what is not and how any hidden dangers can be exposed, and then corrected.