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Poison Prevention Week Observed

03/18/2013
Poison Prevention Week Observed
The Allentown Health Bureau reminds the public that March 17 – 23 is National Poison Prevention Week; a time to raise public awareness about poisoning hazards and their prevention. More than 2 million poisonings are reported each year to the nation’s poison centers via the 1-800-222-1222 hotline.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, in 2009 nearly 2,069 Pennsylvania residents died due to poisoning; an average of one resident every five hours. A poisoning is defined as an accidental or intentional drug overdose; misuse or abuse of prescription drugs, exposure to gases like carbon monoxide or ingestion of toxic food stuffs (including alcohol poisoning or other substances). Ninety-two percent of all poisoning deaths in the Commonwealth are attributed to drug poisoning. The state Department of Health reported 376 poisoning deaths in Lehigh and Northampton counties over the period 2005-2009; 256 or 68% occurred in the 20-49 age group. As is happening across the United States and the Commonwealth, the Lehigh Valley is seeing an upsurge of prescription drug-related deaths and hospitalizations, especially in the adult population.

Child poisoning deaths and hospitalizations are not as frequent an occurrence but are most common for the age group under six years old and most frequently happen in the home setting. Personal care products (e.g. cosmetics, creams lotions, mouthwash), household cleaning products and chemicals (e.g. pesticides) and over-the-counter or prescription medications (e.g. pain relievers, cough and cold medicines, vitamins) are common causes of child poisonings.

The following are some tips to follow to reduce poisoning:

For Children
- Keep all medications out of children’s reach or locked in a cabinet
- Store all medications in original containers
- Remember that children mistake common household items such as mouthwash, cleaning products and medicine for candy, food and drinks they enjoy. Keep these products out of children’s reach.
- If you take pills, do so out of sight of children.
- Know what plants are poisonous and keep them out of child’s reach.
- Always read the labels of all medications and follow the instructions when giving medication to your child.
- Buy products that have child proof containers. Ask for pills and tablets in blister packs and foil strips.

For Adults

- Read all medication labels carefully and take them as prescribed by your doctor.
- Never share your medications with others or use someone else’s prescription.
- Buy your medications at one pharmacy if possible.
- Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any unusual side effects after taking your medication.
- Store medications in a dry area away from moisture.
- Get in the habit of checking the expiration dates on your medicine bottles and throw away medicine that has expired.

"By educating local residents about preventative steps in the home and in their lives, I believe we can make serious progress in keeping our loved ones safe," said Allentown Health Bureau Director Vicky Kistler. “It is vital that people arm themselves with basic information on poison prevention in the home such as keeping chemicals out of the reach of children and carefully reading the labels and dosages on all products. One way to reduce the risk of poisoning is to clean out your medicine cabinet. If you have old, unwanted prescriptions or over-the-counter medications, bring them to the next Drug Take Back collection on Saturday, April 27, 2013 from 10am to 2pm. The locations of the drop off sites will be announced in April,” Kistler added.

If you have a question about poisoning or would like to receive literature, contact the Poison Hotline at 1-800-222-1222.
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