Accidental Poisoning: Tips from Emergency Room Doctors

Child Care

When you hear the word “poison”, the first thing that may come to mind is an episode of True Crime. But intentional poisoning thank goodness isn’t as great a concern as accidental poisoning. If you’re a parent, chances are you probably have caught your child chewing or swallowing something they weren’t supposed to, probably on multiple occasions.

At Hospitality Health ER, we are just as much parents as we are doctors. So we realize it’s virtually impossible to keep an eye on your children 24-7, whether it is your two-year-old explorer or your curious, experimental teenager.

Because accidental poisoning is the second leading cause of unintentional death in the US following car crashes, Hospitality Health ER wants to arm you with the knowledge of how to prevent and handle a poisoning emergency.

Why is Accidental Poisoning Common?

Ninety percent of child poisonings occur in the home, mainly because of medication dosage mistakes and unsupervised ingestions of drugs and chemicals lying around the house. Household cleaners, prescriptions, and over-the-counter medications have become such a routine part of everyday life that we forget about the risk they pose to children and to all family members.

One poison exposure is reported to U.S. poison control centers every 15 seconds, and the largest population of victims is young children. It’s reported that about 12,000 children under the age of five are treated in emergency rooms for exposure to household cleaning products every year. Six percent of those injured face a life-threatening situation or suffer long-term disabilities from their poisoning.

Here are some key tips to stay prepared in the event of an accidental poisoning emergency:

1) Keep the Poison Control Hotline Readily Available:

  • Post the poison help number, 1-800-222-1222, in a visible area and save it on your cell phone. The line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

2) Know What to Do in the Event of an Emergency:

  • Stay calm so you can better manage the situation.
  • Go to your local ER or call 911 if the victim has collapsed or is not breathing. If the victim is awake and alert, dial 1-800-222-1222.
  • Be prepared to tell the 911 operator with important information like the victim’s age and weight; the container or bottle of the poison if available; the time of the exposure; and the address where the poisoning occurred.
  • Stay on the phone and follow the instructions from the emergency operator or poison control center.

3) Poison Proof Your Home:

  • Keep chemical products in their original bottles or containers.
  • Do not use food containers such as cups, bottles, or jars to store chemical products such as cleaning solutions or beauty products.
  • Do not mix household products together like bleach and ammonia which can result in toxic gases.
  • Protect yourself with gloves, long sleeves, long pants, socks, and shoes if you spray chemicals.
  • Ventilate your home when using chemical products such as household cleaners.
  • Only take prescription medications that are prescribed to you by a healthcare professional.
  • Avoid misusing or abusing medications by sticking to the prescribed dosage of  medications – whether it’s a prescription or over-the-counter medication. Read all warning labels.
  • Consult with your doctor or pharmacist about unsafe drug interactions when you take other medicines.
  • Never share or sell your prescription drugs.
  • Keep all prescription medicines in a safe place that can only be accessed by responsible adults.
  • Follow directions on the label when you give or take medicines.
  • Only administer or take medicines with adequate light, so that you know you are taking or administering the correct amount of the right medicine.
  • Monitor the use of medicines prescribed for children and teenagers, such as ADD medications and other controlled substances
  • Get rid of unused, unneeded, or expired prescription drugs.
  • Be sure to read the label before using a product that may be poisonous.