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How to prevent most cases of poisoning

February 29, 2016,

The third full week of every March is National Poison Prevention Week. An entire seven days of awareness and education seems appropriate given the impact these harsh chemicals have on people's lives and the sheer number of annual poison-related cases cases. According to figures from the National Capital Poison Center, there were nearly 2.2 million poison exposures in 2014 alone. That translates to 1 exposure report to one of the nation's 55 poison control centers every 15 seconds.

"There were nearly 2.2 million exposures in 2014 alone."

Before it gets to the stage of medical intervention, there is plenty you can do as an individual and family member. Here are four important tips for preventing poisonings this week and beyond:

1. Be wary with your medicines 
A large number of all cases each year occur because someone ingested the wrong medicine or simply took an incorrect dose. That's why the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested a number of different steps to consider when handling medications. For one, never share your pills with anyone unless a doctor has approved the exchange. Avoid taking more than the prescribed dose, or you run the risk of harmful overdosing. That's especially true for painkillers like methadone and hydrocodone. If you have children taking medications, be sure to monitor them, as accidental overdoses are frequent among young people. 

2. Watch your cleaning products
Similar to prescription medications, household cleaners are another common cause of poisoning cases across the U.S. Children in particular are susceptible, and parents should always take steps to reduce exposure to these cleaners, as Safe Kids Worldwide suggested. That means storing all cleaners (bleach, detergent, dishwasher liquid) away from the reach of children and not in bathroom or kitchen sinks. Whenever you store cleaners in a cabinet, add extra protection by using child safety locks. Never leave any cleaners unattended, and keep them within your vision while a child is around. Finally, never put cleaners in a different bottle, as this can create harmful reactions depending on what was previously in the container, namely bleach or ammonia. 

3. Always pay attention
Exposure to cleaning solutions and prescription pills occur most frequently. However, as the Poison Prevention Week Council explained, there are many other sources of potential poison exposure around your home. For instance, some children have been known to consume small magnets and batteries, and these can be poisonous depending on their composition. You may also have rat or mice catchers around your house, and if that's the case, it's a good idea to buy the tamper-proof models to block curious children. If you spray pesticides on your lawn, fence the area off to keep out both small children and any pets. Any time you throw out cleaning solutions or other harmful products, be sure to rinse out the entire container and replace the cap. 

"Symptoms of poisoning include confusion, redness on hands and lips, and vomiting."

4. Recognize the signs
There are a number of household items that can poison adults and children alike. Despite that, the Mayo Clinic explained that most poison exposures share the same core symptoms and early warning signs. Someone who has been poisoned will almost always develop burns or redness on his or her hands and mouth, which indicates where the poison made contact. In addition to the possibility of vomiting, the person's breath may also smell of the chemical he or she ingested. Finally, drowsiness and altered mental states are also quite common. It's also important to look for the physical signs of exposure. That could be odors or stains on nearby objects, empty pill bottles or opened packages and containers of cleaning solution.

If you suspect your child or a family member has been poisoned, especially by chlorine or ingesting sumac leaves, you can take him or her to your local CareWell Urgent Care Center. With highly trained doctors at each location across the East Coast, CareWell can help treat almost any injury. 

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