Poisoning is the leading cause of injury death in the United States. National Poison Prevention Week, observed during the third full week of March every year, raises awareness of potential poisons around the home and stresses the importance of taking steps to prevent poisonings.
Understand the Dangers of Poisonings
Poisons are substances that can cause illness, injury, or death when ingested, inhaled, or otherwise absorbed by the body. Over two million poisonings are reported in the United States each year, with more than 90% incidents occurring in the home. Most non-lethal poisonings occur in children under 6 years of age.
Take Steps to Prevent Unintentional Poisonings
Prescription drug overdoses, accidental drug or chemical ingestion, and exposure to toxic substances are common causes of poisoning. Inspect your home for common items such as medicines, cleaning products, batteries, pesticides, and fertilizers that can be harmful when used or stored incorrectly.
Prescription Drugs and Over-The-Counter Medications
- Store prescriptions and other over-the-counter medications out of reach and sight of children with the child resistant safety caps on.
- Use child safety-latches on medicine cabinet doors.
- If you or any guests keep medication bottles in purses or backpacks, ensure they are also kept where children cannot get into them.
- Read the label carefully and follow the instructions for proper dosage based on age and weight when giving medicine to a child.
- Don’t take extra pills or more frequent doses to speed up or increase the effectiveness of medication.
- Keep medications in their original bottles or containers and pay attention to all warning labels.
- Any unused, unneeded, or expired prescription drugs should be disposed of properly according to federal guidelines. You can also find a Drug Take Back location in your community.
Household Cleaning Products
- Household cleaners and disinfectants can make you sick when not used properly. Always follow the directions on the product label to ensure safe and effective use.
- Avoid mixing chemicals, which can create potentially toxic gas. Bleach is especially dangerous and should not be used with anything other than water.
- Open windows or turn on a fan when using chemical products to avoid a buildup of fumes.
- Wear gloves and long sleeves when using household cleaners and disinfectants to protect your hands and skin.
- Keep potentially harmful products in their original containers. Do not use food containers, such as cups or bottles, to store household cleaners or other strong chemicals.
- Store household cleaners in locked cabinets out of the reach of children when not in use.
Other Potentially Dangerous Household Products
- Store batteries away from children and properly discard old batteries after they have been removed from a device. Damaged or defective batteries can leak and release a chemical caused potassium chloride, which can cause chemical burns and other health problems.
- Keep children and pets away while applying pesticides or fertilizers to your yard. Follow the product directions to know when it is safe to return to the area.
- Wear long sleeves, long pants, shoes, socks, and gloves while using pesticides, as they can be extremely poisonous and absorbed through the skin.
- Understand what plants are inside and outside your home. Remove any poisonous plants that could be ingested by children or pets.
Keep Your Home Safe from Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that kills nearly 500 people per year and leads to the hospitalization of thousands more. CO is often called the “silent killer” because it is difficult to detect. Take these steps to help prevent CO buildup in your home:
- Test your CO detector monthly and replace its batteries at least once every year.
- Schedule professional inspection for all your fuel-burning appliances, including furnaces, fireplaces, and generators. This should be done in the fall before you start using your heat-producing appliances.
- Make sure chimney flues and ventilation systems are working and unblocked.
- Never operate a car, grill, generator, or any other fuel-burning appliance in your garage or any enclosed spaces.
Be Aware of Potential Asbestos Exposure
If your home was built before the 1980s, there is a possibility of asbestos in the house. Asbestos is a mineral fiber that was widely used in many products because of its excellent heat resistance, durability, and low cost. It is also a dangerous health hazard.
Asbestos poisoning can cause scarring and inflammation of the lungs, leading to shortness of breath, wheezing, persistent dry cough, and fatigue. The most common places to find asbestos in your home include flooring, ceiling tiles, roof shingles, insulation, ductwork, sheet vinyl, cement, and wallboard. Consider having an asbestos inspection done by a trained professional to make sure this poisonous material is not present in your home.
Seek Help Immediately If You Suspect Someone Has Been Poisoned
If you suspect someone has been poisoned, contact the Poison Control Help Hotline at 1-800-222-1222 immediately. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, dial 9-1-1. Follow the instructions from the emergency operator or poison control center to get help.