NEWARK — October brings warm days and cool nights to spend time outside and take in the foliage, pick pumpkins at local farms, sample homemade cider and collect treats for tricks, dressed as witches and goblins.
Experts at the NJ Poison Control Center (www.njpies.org) urge parents and caregivers to be alert and take precautions to avoid unpleasant incidents and keep these delightful annual treks safe and fun.
“Halloween is one of the busiest times of the year for the doctors, pharmacists and nurses who answer the hot line at our 24-hour call center,” says Dr. Steven Marcus, executive and medical director of NJPIES. “This time of year, we get calls about anything from bug bites to stomach aches (usually due to consumption of too much candy — not necessarily tainted candy). But mishaps can occur at any time, and being prepared and informed about how to handle them in advance can ensure an enjoyable experience.”
He said that one of the topics unique to this time of year is accidental ingestion of glow stick liquid. “The substance in glow sticks is not a toxin, just an irritant,” said Dr. Marcus. “But very often, parents call 9-1-1 or spend hours in the emergency room, only to be told that the resulting sore throat and upset stomach can be relieved with a little milk — advice that would have been quickly provided over the phone by one of our trained medical professionals.”
Dr. Marcus provided some additional tips for a variety of fall activities that warrant keeping the NJPIES toll-free hot line number handy:
- Trick-or-treat at homes of friends and neighbors you know — never accept candy or fruit from strangers.
- Supervise children when sorting and consuming candy — be sure all edible items are in original packaging, and are separated from non-edible items.
- Always keep medications safely stored in locked cabinets and out of reach of children. Some medications, which come in various colors, look similar to and can be easily mistaken for candy (e.g., ex-lax® or Advil®).
- Wash hands thoroughly or use a hand sanitizer — this is especially important for trips to local farms for apple and pumpkin picking or feeding and petting farm animals.
- Avoid drinking fresh, unpasteurized cider, which can cause a stomachache for some.
- “Bee” aware — yellow jackets are often active around farms and garden centers during the warm days and cool nights of fall, especially around fallen or rotting fruit. Those with sensitivity to stings should carry an antihistamine or bee sting therapy.
Dr. Marcus added that the most important thing is not to panic and to have the poison control center’s hot line number close by — program it into home and cell phones for quick access. Help is just a phone call away.
NJPIES leaders urge medical professionals, parents, educators, caregivers and the general public to call the toll-free poison center hot line, 1-800-222-1222, with any questions about Halloween safety or for any poisoning emergency.
As New Jersey’s only poison control center, the New Jersey Poison Information & Education System provides information on poison prevention and treatments. Chartered in 1983, NJPIES provides free consultation through telephone hot line services and the Web. Medical professionals such as physicians, registered nurses and pharmacists offer confidential advice regarding poison emergencies and provide information on poison prevention, drugs, food poisoning, animal bites and more. These specialists are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
NJPIES coordinates state poison education and research and is designated as the regional poison center by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services and the American Association of Poison Control Centers. It tracks incidences of adverse reactions to food, drugs and vaccines in order to monitor potential public health issues and provide data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A division of the Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health of the New Jersey Medical School of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, it has a state-of-the-art center located on the school’s Newark campus.
New Jersey residents seeking immediate information about treating poison emergencies, and those with any drug information questions, should call the toll-free hot line, 800-222-1222, any time. The hearing impaired may call 973-926-8008. For more information, visit www.njpies.org or call 973-972-9280.
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