According to the American Red Cross, about 92% of all poisonings happen at home. Over half of these poisonings happen to children under the age of 6. Most of these poisonings are preventable.
Poisoning happens in four different ways. Poison can be swallowed, inhaled, injected, or absorbed into the body. Swallowed poisons would include certain foods; such as some mushrooms or shellfish, certain drugs; such as sleeping pills, or alcohol, medications; such as aspirin or cold medicines, or household supplies; such as cleaners or pesticides. Inhaled poisons would include such things as gases; such as carbon monoxide or chlorine, and fumes from things such as household products or illegal drugs. Absorbed poisons are things that can be absorbed through the skin such as poison ivy, oak, and sumac. Fertilizers and pesticides can also be absorbed through the skin. Injected poisons are things that are injected into the body, such as a bee sting, snake bite, or a substance injected through a needle.
Preventing poisoning is a fairly easy thing to do. If you are using a potentially dangerous chemical, wear protective gear such as gloves, eye protection and a face mask. If you are taking medications, only take the recommended or prescribed dosage. Be aware of any and all possible side effects and if you experience any of them, seek medical help. Never use someone else’s prescribed medication. Always keep medications in the bottle they came in to avoid taking the wrong one. Destroy out-dated medications by flushing them down the toilet. Medications can become not only less-effective over time, but some can become toxic.
Keep all potentially medications and chemicals out of the reach of children. Little kids are curious by nature and may decide to put things in their mouth that just don’t belong. Those pills that you take may look like candy to a child, and that floor cleaner you use may look like kool-aid. Not only should you keep all potentially hazardous items out of a child’s reach, you should also be sure to keep them in the proper container and the lids on tight.
Around the house, preventing poisoning is fairly simple, but there are other times when it is not so simple. Outdoors for example. You may be able to jeep hazardous materials out of reach, but you may not be able to prevent a child or adult from being stung by a bee, or bitten by a mosquito. You may not be able to prevent it, but you can lessen the chances. When going outdoors, always use a mosquito repellent that contains DEET, and try not to allow standing water in your yard. If you have a drink outdoors, keep it covered to help prevent bees, wasps, and mosquitoes from getting into it. Keep your yard trimmed to help prevent the growth of poisonous plants, and the chances of snakes making a home in your yard.
Try as you may to prevent poisoning, it can still happen. Knowing what to do is important in making sure that the poisoning doesn’t become fatal.
Know the number for the Poison Control Center. For years, every area had its own local number to call. Now, there is one number that you can call from anywhere in the U.S. to get help. That number is 1-800-222-1222. Post this number near your phone, and if you have a cell phone, add it to your list if contacts. If you do not have that number handy, you can always dial 9-1-1 or your local emergency number. They will contact poison control for you and direct you on how to care for the person who is poisoned.
There are signs and symptoms to look for when you suspect a person has been poisoned. You may see things such as an open bottle of medication or cleaner, and overturned plant, you may smell fumes in the area or see smoke and/or flames. These things can indicate that a person has been poisoned. You should check the person for signs of poisoning such as nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, chest or abdominal pain, difficulties with breathing, sweating, changes in the level of consciousness, seizures, headache, dizziness, lethargy or weakness, and irregular or non-responsive pupils, burning sensation in the eyes, throat, or mouth, pale, ashen, or blue colored skin, any burns on or around the mouth, tongue, lips, hands, or hands. These things may all indicate that a person has been poisoned. Not all signs may be present, but if one or more is, take action to help the person.
Taking action is a big part is saving the life of a person who has been poisoned. If the area is dangerous, move the person away from the poison source. In other words, if there is smoke, fore, or fumes, get the person and yourself out of the area. Check the person’s signs of life, including, breathing, consciousness, and heart rate. If there is any life threatening condition, care for that condition the best that you can. If the person is conscious, ask them questions to find out what type pf poison they were exposed to. Get as much information as you can from the person. If you are able to, look for any container from which the poison may have come from and have them by the phone with you. Now, call the Poison Control Center and give them all of the information that you have. They will instruct you on what to do next. Stay on the line until they tell you to hang up. Chances are, they will either call for an ambulance for you, or tell you to call for one. If the person who is poisoned becomes violent or threatening, go to a safe place where you can still monitor their behavior, and wait for help to arrive. Do not give the person anything to eat or drink unless you have been instructed to do so. Different poisons require different treatments, and sometimes, allowing them to eat or drink, or even to induce vomiting can be fatal.
If a person has inhaled toxic fumes, it is important for them to get fresh air as soon as possible. If you smell any odd odors, assume that they have inhaled them and take the person outdoors for fresh air. You may notice that their skin is pale, grayish, or blue. This indicates that they are not getting enough oxygen.
A wet or dry chemical can poison a person through absorption. IF the chemical is wet, flush the area with cool water as soon as possible. If the chemical is in the eye, you want to flush the eye with cool running water. Place the affected eye down to prevent the poison from getting into the other eye. Call 9-1-1 or Poison Control for further instructions. If the chemical is dry, chances are that it is activated with water. So, the first thing you should do is to brush as much of the chemical off as you can, then flush the area with cool water. Once again, call 9-1-1 or Poison Control for further instruction.
Poisoning is a common occurrence. Sometimes, it can be prevented, other times, it cannot. Take steps to prevent poisoning in and around your home and place of employment. Knowing what to do in the event of a poisoning is important is saving the life of a person who has poisoned. Educate yourself on those things. Be sure to know the number for Poison Control and your local emergency number. If you suspect a person has been poisoned, by deciding to act, you can save their life.