If you suspected that a member of your household had ingested a potentially poisonous substance, would you know what to do? Did you know you can call the Florida Poison Information Center—sometimes referred to as Poison Control—at 1-800-222-1222 for assistance with any possible poison event? A health care professional is available 24 hours a day, ready to assess the situation and make medical care recommendations. These “Specialists in Poison Information” are also available for healthcare professionals, emergency responders, and governmental agencies as well.
Every home harbors poisonous chemicals, medications, and even venomous wildlife, so it is important for all homeowners to recognize the various dangers present in the cupboards, medicine cabinets, and grounds of any home. According to JoAnn Chambers-Emerson, a RN Certified Specialist with the Florida Poison Center, when it comes to the percentage of poisoning emergencies that are preventable, “if you could prevent critters from biting, you could probably prevent every poison event.”
Chambers-Emerson maintains that the greatest poison danger in the home comes from the medicine cabinet. She points out that medications taken in error or the misuse of medications are the two most likely ways that medicines meant to improve health turn into poisons. She also adds that young children and the elderly are the most at-risk groups for suffering a poison event. Chambers-Emerson elaborates, “Babies and toddlers will eat unusual items. Then, they cannot explain how they feel and they don’t have fully developed body systems” to handle adult medications. For senior citizens, the likelihood of a serious poison event is multiplied because, as Chambers-Emerson points out, “they may be on multiple medications and also might suffer from chronic diseases.”
The Poison Center asserts that any household that might host anyone under the age of 6 at any time in the future should be mindful of items that could poison a curious child. Medications are not the only hazard for young ones: cleaners, cosmetics, plant matter, and everyday items like tobacco products, vitamins, tooth paste and mouthwash, roach motels, and batteries can pose a poison threat to unsupervised kids. The Florida Poison Center advises locking known poisons and possible poisons like medications and cleaners behind latched and/or locked doors. Furthermore, poisons should never be stored alongside food or beverages, and poisonous materials should be kept in their original containers. For instance, don’t use an empty window wash bottle to store a solution of bleach or ammonia.
Certainly, the young and the elderly are not the only age groups at risk, and medications and household cleaners are not the only threats. There are a host of stinging and biting insects as well as snakes—especially here in Florida—and the experts at the Florida Poison Center are able to handle calls and make medical recommendations concerning bites and stings too; they even encourage people to call their toll-free hotline if they suspect the family pet has been stung or bitten by a venomous creature or has ingested a poisonous substance.
Chamber-Emerson stresses that chemicals are another primary poisoning threat because, “most people know very little about chemicals… it’s imperative to read labels before use and follow instructions.” The Florida Poison Information Center is a fast and easily-accessed resource for those who suspect they may not have paid close enough attention to chemical labels. “That’s why the poison centers are there,” Chamber-Emerson continues, “to provide accurate answers to questions. We don’t want people to try to figure things out through Internet searches, especially during an emergency. Talking to an experienced expert at the poison center will result in quick answers specifically for the individual situation, something that they cannot find on the Internet.
story by ERIKA ALDRICH