By RACHEL C. DOVE
CHARLESTON - In 1962, the President of the United States proclaimed the third week of March to be National Poison Prevention Week to help raise awareness about the dangers of poisonings.
This tradition has continued now for fifty years.
The West Virginia Poison Center (WVPC) and America’s other 56 poison centers are committed to safeguarding the health and well-being of every American through poison prevention and free, confidential, expert medical services. The WVPC responds to calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year in order to help those who have been exposed to toxic substances. They are staffed by nurses, pharmacists and physicians with special training in treatment of poisonings.
While most of the calls received by the WVPC are the result of accidental poisonings of children under the age of 6, poisoning can happen to people of all age groups. Some of the questions frequently asked by callers include inquiries about accidental poisonings of children and adults, drug overdoses, bites and sings, reactions to drugs and chemicals, drug interactions, poisoning of animals, chronic lead poisoning, toxic or non-toxic plan information and poisonings from drugs of abuse.
Carissa McBurney, Community Outreach Coordinator for the Charleston Division of the Poison Center, stated that during the national prevention week, she hopes to bring special attention to just how easily a toddler or young child may ingest a poisonous liquid.
“The telephone rings while you’re cleaning your kitchen counters. You leave your 3 year-old playing in the floor while you grab your phone. When you return a few seconds later, your child is now playing in a pool of cleaner,” said McBurney.
“What do you do?”
Situations like this one, according to McBurney, are happening to families all across America. Questions about possible poisonings in children are the most common calls to the poison center. Although scary, many children do not need to visit the emergency room after an exposure. However; you should never assume that this will be the case with your child. Get the bottle the fluid was in and have it close by when you make the call to the poison center. This call will set your mind to rest and get you the answers you need.
Most important, said McBurney, is to call immediately. Do not wait for symptoms to appear. By that time, the health of the child could deteriorate quickly.
“Never assume anything,” McBurney said. “In a matter of minutes, your child’s health could possibly be compromised.
“It’s better to call for no reason that to not call for a valid one.”
Here are a few safety tips offered by the WVPC that will help to protect your child from accidental poisonings:
Keep medications and household products out of children’s reach, preferably locked up. Remember, child resistant caps and packaging does not mean child-proof. Teach children about the dangers of poisonings and remind them to always ask adults before touching unknown items. Poison and edible items may look alike to small children, so it is vital that you teach them to ask before eating something. Do not ever leave chemicals of any kind unattended in the presence of children, not even for a moment.
To reach the WVPC if you know or suspect poisoning, you may call 1-800-222-1222. You may also visit their website for additional information and safety tips at www.wvpoisoncenter.org.