Poisoning is the number 1 cause of injury-related death in the United States. In order to raise public awareness of this risk, the 3rd week of March each year is designated as National Poison Prevention Week.
Recent studies have shown that over 57% of human exposures to poison involve medications or pharmaceutical products. As a safe practice, it is important to take medications as prescribed to you by your health care practitioner and don't take medications that are prescribed to another person as they may not be appropriate for you or can interact with other medications you are on.
While the possible harm associated with misuse of prescription medications is commonly known, but you should also be careful when using over-the-counter (OTC) medications as well. It's a common misconception that these medications cannot cause harm. However, there can be risks associated with taking OTC medications. For this reason, a health care practitioner should always be consulted before starting a new OTC medication or nutritional supplement. Overdose of common OTC medications such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) may lead to permanent kidney or liver injury and can even have fatal consequences. OTC medications and supplements can also interact with prescription medications.
Proper disposal of medications is also important for poison prevention. On patient information sheets obtained along with your prescription from the pharmacy, there are specific instructions on how to dispose of your medications. When in doubt, there are many community-based drug “take-back” programs that offer a safe method for getting rid of unwanted or expired medications. If the prescription patient information sheet indicates it is okay to throw out your medications, you should do the following:
- Remove all of the medications from the original containers and mix them with undesirable substances, such as used coffee grounds, dirt, or kitty litter.
- Place the mixture in a sealable bag, empty can, or container to prevent the drug from leaking or breaking out of the garbage bag.
Household Chemical Poisoning
In addition to safe medication use, creating a safe home is also important. Most poisonings occur within our homes. One of the most important tips for home safety is never combine two household chemicals together. Doing so can create dangerous toxins that can poison you and your family. You should keep these substances, such as cleaning supplies, insect repellents, batteries, and personal care products, in their original containers and away from children. When spraying pesticides , it is critical to pay attention to the product label and avoid contact for the specified time given. Wearing long clothing and keeping children and pets off of the lawn will help prevent any possible poisonings.
Finally, do not be afraid of calling poison control. They are there to help you. Whether it’s an emergency or you simply have a question, there are medical experts who are ready to assist you and give you proper guidance for any poison situation.
For more information, visit: http://www.aapcc.org/prevention/