March 20 through 26 is Poison Prevention Week, an awareness raising effort by the American College of Emergency Physicians and the American Association of Poison Control Centers. When you think about poisons around your house you might begin to think of the stuff out in the garage or under the kitchen sink. While these area are prime places to store household chemicals found in cleansers, paints, pesticides and such, do you know where you’ll find the most problematic poison in most homes?
According to PoisonPrevention.org, more than 2 million reports of poisoning are reported each year with more than 90% of those happening in the home. The majority of non-fatal poisonings happen in children under 6 years old and poisonings are one of the leading causes of death in adults. In fact according to a study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, drug-related poisoning are second only to car crashes as the cause of injury deaths.
That’s right; the most problematic poison in the home is found in the medicine cabinet. The problem isn’t about very young children ingesting prescription drugs, in fact since childproof packaging for drugs were introduced in 1972, drug poisoning deaths among children under 5 has steadily decreased.
The growing problem is with abuse and misuse of prescription and over the counter (OTC) drugs among teens. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a study in 2009 and found that 20% of teenagers reported taking a prescription drug with out a prescription. Other than marijuana the majority of drugs being abused by teens are painkillers, depressants and stimulants. Teens are also misusing and abusing OTC medications like cold remedies as well as steroids.
If you suspect your teen of misusing or abusing prescription or OTC drugs, the first step is to open the lines of communication. According to experts, communication is not about “having the talk”, it’s more important to keep an open and on-going dialogue about drugs. Ask questions and listen. Establish clear rules. Give honest answers. Look for opportunities to start the conversation.
Additional poison safety tips for children of all ages include:
- Remove and destroy old and unused medicines
- Call medicine by it’s correct name and don’t refer to it as “candy”.
- Replace safety caps immediately after use.
- Keep medicines, alcohol, and other poisons out of reach and locked.
If you suspect your child or someone else has swallowed a poison, don’t immediately induce vomiting. Instead try to identify what they swallowed and call the Poison Help Line at 800-222-1222. Stay calm and if the person is unconscious or has trouble breathing, immediately call 911.
By expanding your thinking about what household items might be used, misused or abused that could result in injury or death, along with honest communication around the house, most poisons can go from being potential to preventable.