Health News Articles

Poison Prevention: Staying a Step Ahead

May 17, 2013

The statistics on accidental poisonings are shocking— 53% of poison exposures occur in children under the age of six, and 89% of all poison exposures occur in the home. 

“Most people would be surprised to learn that Grandma’s and Grandpa’s medications are some of the leading sources of poisonings of young children,” says Alicia Brennan, MD , Medical Director of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) Pediatric Care at University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro (UMCPP) . “It most frequently occurs when the grandparents come to visit and the children find medications in their bags or out on dressers or sink tops.”

Generally, older people who don’t live with children aren’t accustomed to safeguarding their medications from inquisitive hands. Their medications often don’t have childproof caps and they are stored in easy-to-open pill boxes. They are also generally left in accessible locations.

Dr. Brennan warns that although prescription medications are dangerous for children to ingest, some over-the- counter drugs can be just as harmful.

“Accidental ingestion of Tylenol or drugs with iron are particularly dangerous and should always be treated as an urgent situation,” advises Dr. Brennan. “If you suspect your child swallowed a harmful substance, call your local poison control center.”

How to Respond to Accidental Poisoning
If you know or suspect your child swallowed a poisonous substance, don’t make him or her vomit—you could cause more harm. Unless your child is exhibiting serious symptoms like respiratory distress—in which case you should call 911—call poison control first. Tell them as much information as you know: when it happened, what your child took and how much you think was ingested. They’ll direct you to the emergency room if necessary. Always bring the item with you to help the physicians assess the situation as quickly as possible.

To contact the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System call 1.800.222.1222. To reach the UMCPP Emergency Department , call 609.853.7000 (and remember to bring samples and/or containers of the substances ingested).

5 Tips for Keeping Dangerous Substances out of Reach

  • Place harmful substances, including medications, out of reach or in a secure location.
  • Keep cleaners or other dangerous substances in containers that are normally used for food.
  • Ask your guests to keep their medications and other dangerous substances in a safe place.
  • Don't assume non-poisonous or non- medicinal items aren’t harmful (for example, disc- shaped batteries may release acid if ingested).
  • Check each room in your home, including your garage, to ensure that items like weed killer and antifreeze are out of reach.