The top 5 poisoning threats to young children

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Jeanette Trella (left), managing director of the Poison Control Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia with Jane E. Miloradovich, a specialist in poison information in center.

Starting today, the Poison Control Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia will unite with the nation’s 54 other  poison centers to celebrate the 56th Annual National Poison Prevention Week. It’s a week dedicated to raising awareness about poisoning in the United States and highlighting ways to prevent it.

Each year, U.S. poison centers receive nearly three million poisoning exposure calls. The Philadelphia PCC manages more than 65,000 calls annually. Of those calls, more than half involve children 5 years of age and under. All calls to the Poison Control Center are answered by specially trained nurses, pharmacists, and physicians. In addition to life-saving services, poison centers also provide educational outreach to prevent poison emergencies and inform the public about the dangers of poisons.

Poisoning is the leading cause of unintentional deaths in our country, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most poisoning deaths are due to misuse and abuse of drugs, but accidental exposure to poisoning can involve a vast array of substances and can range from mildly toxic to life-threatening.

The top 5 items involved in pediatric exposures based on the latest data from 2016 were:

  1. Cosmetic and personal-care items
  2. Cleaning products
  3. Painkillers
  4. Foreign objects (coins, pins, button batteries, toys)
  5. Topical products

Small children are more likely to be exposed to poison as they are constantly exploring their environment by putting things in their mouths.

Although many exposures in children are not seriously harmful, there are some substances, such as opioids, heart medications, unit dose laundry packs, and highly concentrated cleaning supplies that can be dangerous, possibly deadly. Poisoning don’t always occur by ingesting a substance; sometimes, harm can occur through exposure to the skin or even the eyes.  Adults are accidentally exposed working with chemicals without proper precautions, or inadvertently taking the wrong medication.

The dosage can affect whether a substance is poisonous and it varies based on the substance, the route of exposure, the age, and medical history of the person exposed. Don’t leave it up to chance. Call the Poison Center, 24/7 to help you determine whether an exposure might be problematic for a person of any age.

Some tips to prevent poisonings:

Be prepared for an emergency. Keep the national, free Poison Help phone number at your fingertips by saving the number in your mobile phone: 1-800-222-1222.

Practice safe storage habits. Always store medicines and hazardous substances, if children are present, up, away, and out of sight. Keep these substances in their original, child-resistant containers.

Read and follow all labels and directions. Review medicine and product labels before you use them, especially before giving medicine to children.

Detect invisible threats. Have a working carbon monoxide detector in your home.

Have your child screened for lead: Especially if you live in areas where lead may be present in older paint, or in the water.

You can follow National Poison Prevention Week on social media by searching for #PoisonHelp, #PreventPoison, and #NPPW18 on Twitter, liking our Facebook page, and by saving the Poison Help phone number (1-800-222-1222) in your phone, or by texting POISON to 797979.

Duong, a PharmD candidate from Temple University, worked on this article in conjunction with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Poison Control Center.