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Health Care and Poison Control

As Summer starts, one key element of health care during these months is poison control. In 2013, America’s 55 poison centers received over 3.1 million calls, and about 2.2 million of those were for poison exposures including carbon monoxide, food poisoning, snake bites, and many more. The remainder of those calls consisted of people asking general information about poison, according to the AAPCC.  

The American Association of Poison Control Centers supports the nation’s 55 poison centers in their efforts  to prevent and treat poison exposures. These locations offer free and confidential medical advice 24/7 through the toll free poison help line at 800-222-1222. This service provides a primary source for information about poisoning and helps reduce costly emergency room visits through in-home treatment in non-emergency situations.

According to the Texas Poison Center Network, in years past, if your child swallowed some type of poison, you wouldn't think twice about using Ipecac to induce vomiting. Today, Poison Centers would never recommend Ipecac. However, many online sources still vouch for its effectiveness. In a panic, people often click on the first seemingly reputable option online.

Every second counts when it comes to poisoning. The longer it takes to look through pages of search results online, the greater the danger of negative health effects. A mistreated poison exposure can escalate an easy in-home treatment into a trip to the hospital. 

Because factors like weight, height, medical history, and in some cases even geography can drastically change the outcome of a poison exposure, it's vital that poisonings are handled on a case-by- case basis. Poison Center experts are the only reliable source for accurate medical recommendations regarding poisons.  

Calling a Poison Center is like calling a really smart, caring family member, minus the judgment and gossip-spreading. The voice on the other end of the line is a medical professional who has undergone years of training and rigorous testing just to qualify to answer your questions. In fact, 20 percent of calls are from doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who are seeking specialized treatment advice. More info can be found at this site: .

However, there are a great number of poisonings that happen that never result in an initial call to a poison control center. In 2010 there were 42,917 deaths attributed to poison, yet poison centers were consulted in 1,730 poisoning fatalities (only 4%).  The CDC estimated that there were 1,098,880 poisoning injuries in 2010 that resulted in a visit to an emergency department. 

Yet, poison centers were involved in only 601,197 cases that involved treatment at a health care facility, indicating that poison centers are not consulted for many poisoning-related ED visits.  Poisonings also go unreported when people do not realize they have been exposed, choose not to seek medical treatment or advice, do not have access to medical care, or do not know about poison center services.

In 2013, the National Capital Poison Center provided consultations for 54,534 callers from the DC metro area.  Sixty-nine percent (38,197) were about people exposed to a poison. Other consultations involved pet poisonings (1,566) and information requests (14,771).  Some interesting facts include: 
·         Most poison exposures (77%) were unintentional.  The Center also received calls about other types of poisonings: medication side effects, substance abuse, malicious poisonings, and suicide attempts. 
·         14,771 people (27%) called for poison-related information. Their questions were about possible problems with medication interactions, pesticide use, workplace chemicals, the safety of specific medications while breast-feeding, and many more topics.
·         44% of poison exposures involved children younger than six, but the most serious cases occurred in adolescents and adults.
·         55% of poison exposures involved medications; other exposures were to household or automotive products, plants, mushrooms, pesticides, animal bites and stings.
·         75% of poison exposures involved people who swallowed a drug or poison. People were also poisoned by inhalation and through exposures to the skin or eyes.
·         65% of poison exposures were safely managed over the phone and did not need medical treatment in a health care facility. However, 82% of those who called a poison center first, before going to a health care facility were safety treated at home. This number increases to 90% for pediatric poisonings when the Poison Center is consulted first, before other medical intervention is sought.

Although these specific stats are for the Metro DC area, they are indicative of the general types of poisonings that happen nationwide. More info about this topic and other associated details can be found at this site: .

What should you do in an event regarding a poisoning?  REMAIN CALM. For UNCONSCIOUS patients, CONVULSIONS, or any DIFFICULTY BREATHING, call 9-1-1. Otherwise call the Poison Control Center TOLL FREE NUMBER.

Information the Poison Center Specialist Will Need:
·         AGE and WEIGHT of the person.
·         WHAT was ingested. Have the bottle or container with you.
·         HOW MUCH was taken. This will help the Poison Center Specialist determine the severity of the incident.
·         HOW the victim is feeling or acting right now.
·         Your NAME and PHONE number.

Here are some safety tips:

·         EYE - Flood the eye with lukewarm water Repeat for 15 minutes. Encourage patient to blink while flushing the eye. Do not force the eyelid open.
·         SWALLOWED MEDICINE - Do not give anything by mouth until calling for advice
·         CHEMICAL OR HOUSEHOLD PRODUCTS - Unless patient is unconscious, having convulsions, or cannot swallow - give a small amount of water. Then call for professional advice to find out if patient should be made to vomit. Do NOT induce vomiting unless recommended by your physician or the Poison Center.
·         INHALED - Immediately get patient to fresh air. Avoid breathing fumes. Open doors and windows. If victim is not breathing, call for help and start assisted (mouth-to-mouth) breathing.
·         SKIN - Remove contaminated clothing and flood skin with water for 15 minutes. Then wash gently with soap and water and rinse. 

Here are some preventive safety tips, according to
How Can You Prevent Poisonings?
·         Use only child resistant covers.
·         Keep in locked cabinets.
·         Return to safe storage immediately after use.
·         Always measure dose - don't guess.
·         Never tell children that medicine is candy.
·         Never take medicine in front of children. They often imitate adults.
·         Keep all purses out of your child's reach. They may contain medicines or other items that could harm a child.

Disposal of Medicines
·         Old, unused and expired prescription and over the counter medication should not be kept
·         Always be careful to remove and/or destroy all personal information on the medication container
·         Wrap medication containers in a thick paper bag or plastic bag that can be closed and place in the trash
·         Place medicines in the trash just before pick-up so that children and animals don’t get to it
·         Tablets and capsules can be crushed or melted in water and mixed with kitty litter, coffee grounds, sand or other kitchen garbage, put in a plastic bag and thrown away
·         Some cities and counties in California have drop-off sites that you can take your medication to, call your county's hazardous waste collection center to find out
·         Flushing medication down the toilet is discouraged and it is better to try one of the other ways listed above, but keeping the home safe by removing old and unused medication is most important

Household Products:
·         Select products with child resistant covers.
·         Keep in locked cabinets.
·         Return to safe storage immediately after use.
·         Store products and food in separate areas.
·         Keep products in original containers. Never put them into food or beverage containers.
·         Don't turn your back on a child when a product is within reach. If the phone or doorbell rings, take the child with you.

·         Know the names of all your plants and which ones are poisonous.
·         Keep all plants out of the reach of small children.
·         Teach children not to put any part of plants in their mouths.

Poisonings are going to happen. Some are life threatening, but all of them are dangerous. Take time to review your house and other areas you frequent. Practice safety wherever you are regarding poison control. Remember to teach everyone in your household and office good prevention for poison control. Keep your doctor’s phone number handy, and always call 911 if you have an emergency.

Until next time. 

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