STATE — In recognition of National Poison Prevention Week, New Jersey Health Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd reminded residents-especially parents , grandparents and others caring for young children-that medications and other hazardous materials should be safely locked away to prevent unintentional poisonings.
More than 1,300 New Jersey children under the age of six were treated in emergency rooms in 2011 and more than 150 children were hospitalized for unintentional poisonings.
“Unintentional poisonings can be prevented,” said O’Dowd. “All of us should take steps to make sure that our homes are as safe as possible by keeping common poisons such as medicines, cleaning products, antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid, pesticides, furniture polish, and gasoline out of the sight and reach of children.”
Other steps that should be taken to poison proof homes include:
- Properly dispose of all unused and/or outdated medicine
- Install a safety latch – that locks when you close the door – on child-accessible cabinets containing harmful products
- Purchase and keep all medicines in containers with safety caps and keep out of reach of children
- Never refer to medicine as “candy” or another appealing name
- Check the label each time you give a child medicine to ensure proper dosage
- Never place dangerous substances in food or drink container
- Keep coal, wood or kerosene stoves in safe working order
The state’s Poison Information and Education System (NJPIES) handled 62,216 calls last year, including 50,477 cases of exposure to poison and 11,739 requests for information. Forty-seven percent of all calls received involved children under six.
NJPIES operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-222-1222. The system is also available online at www.njpies.org. NJPIES is staffed by health care professionals who provide immediate help in poisoning emergencies and answer questions about poisoning involving medications, plants, household cleaning products, food, animals, carbon monoxide, insect bites and stings, and other poisonings. People can also access NJPIES on Facebook, www.facebook.com/njpies and on Twitter @NJPoisonCenter. Live text and chat are also available.
Cell phones can be programmed to include a poison control phone number (1-800-222-1222) and it may be helpful to post the number near home and office phones as well. If someone you know ingests a potentially harmful substance, don’t stop to look it up on the Internet, just call the experts. In many situations, time is of the essence.
More than 2 million poisonings are reported each year to the nation’s poison centers. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, approximately 90 percent of poisonings happen at home, and 51 percent involve children under the age of 6. The majority of fatal poisonings occur among adults – especially older adults.
Nationally, there are more than 831,000 emergency department visits each year due to unintentional poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is the leading cause of unintentional injury deaths both in New Jersey and nationally.
Call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number immediately if a child swallows or comes in contact with poison and is unconscious, having difficulty breathing, or having convulsions or seizures. Different types and methods of poisoning require different, immediate treatment, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics:
- Swallowed poison – Remove the item from the child, and have the child spit out any remaining substance. Do not make your child vomit. Do not use syrup of ipecac.
- Skin poison — Remove the child’s clothes and rinse the skin with lukewarm water for at least 15 minutes
- Eye poison — Flush the child’s eye by holding the eyelid open and pouring a steady stream of room temperature water into the inner corner for 15 minutes.
- Poisonous fumes – Take the child outside or into fresh air immediately. If the child has stopped breathing, start cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and do not stop until the child breathes on his or her own, or until someone can take over. Someone should call 911 as soon as possible.
For more information on poisoning and National Poison Prevention Week, visit: www.NJPIES.org, http://www.cdc.gov/Features/PoisonPrevention/, http://www.state.nj.us/health/ems/poison.shtml or http://poisonhelp.hrsa.gov/faqs/index.html
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