By CHRIS AGEE
Various advocacy groups are joining the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to bring attention to a potentially deadly issue during Poison Prevention Week: March 17-23.
Beginning Sunday, this is the 51st year the agency will sponsor a week dedicated to informing individuals about the prevalence of poisonous substances.
Palo Pinto General Hospital Emergency Room Director James Fesser said the cases of poisonings he sees overwhelmingly fall into one category.
“The most common poisoning that we see, by far, is little children that get ahold of medications that were prescribed to a grandparent or parent,” he said.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than half of the 2.4 million individuals who swallow or come into contact with poisonous substances each year are under the age of 6.
“When these kids start to go from infant to a toddler, they can reach things like that,” Fesser said, explaining the danger can be greater in the home of a grandparent or other caregiver.
“The thing is just awareness of where your medications are when grandkids come to visit, especially if you’re not in the mode of having them with you all the time,” he added. “It’s not uncommon to leave them on a nightstand.”
To aid in educating guardians, the AAP released a list of prevention and treatment tips in coordination with Poison Prevention Week.
At home, guardians are urged to put safeguards in place to prevent accidental poisonings. According to the AAP website, the most dangerous common household products include medicine, cleaners, antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid, pesticides, furniture polish, gasoline, kerosene and lamp oil.
To help prevent ingestion of these products, the group recommends storing them in their original packaging and in locked cabinets.
Additionally, automatically locking safety latches can be installed on doors to any container housing potential poisons.
When referring to medication around children, the AAP urges against calling them “candy” or using any other tempting phrase.
In addition to prescription medications, Fesser advises parents to be aware of the potential danger in some multivitamins.
“The chewable vitamins that contain iron can create problems,” he said, noting children often like the taste and “eat more than they should.”
While the vitamins without iron do not pose as serious a risk, Fesser cautioned caregivers to always monitor children whenever medicine is involved.
Other tips offered by the AAP include discarding unused medicine, maintaining smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and preventing access to remotes and other devices containing small cell batteries that can cause injury if swallowed.
Should a child come into contact with a poison, the tip sheet details the course of action a parent or guardian should take.
If the child is unconscious, convulsing, not breathing, or having seizures, a caregiver should immediately call 9-1-1, the academy states, recommending any other cases of suspected poisoning be reported to the poison control center by calling 1 (800) 222-1222.
Beyond the initial call, the AAP notes immediate treatment varies depending on the type of poison and how the child came into contact with it.
For swallowed poisons, parents should remove the foreign object from the child’s mouth and have the child spit out any remnants of the poison. Adolescents should not be forced to vomit and should not ingest syrup of ipecac in response to swallowed poisons.
Skin poisonings require the removal of the child’s clothes and a complete rinse with lukewarm water for at least 15 minutes.
Caregivers dealing with an eye poison should hold the child’s eyelid open and pour a steady stream of room temperature water into the eye’s inner corner for 15 minutes.
Finally, children who have breathed poisonous fumes must be moved outside or into fresh air immediately. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation is required if the child stops breathing and should continue until he or she is breathing again.
However, the basic message is that following simple, common-sense precautions can go a long way toward preventing poisoning incidents involving children.