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Poison Prevention Week Observed

03/17/2014
Poison Prevention Week Observed

The Allentown Health Bureau reminds the public that March 16 – 22 is National Poison Prevention Week; a time to raise public awareness about poisoning hazards and prevention. More than 2 million poisonings are reported each year to the nation’s poison centers, via the 1-800-222-1222 hotline.

In 2010, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, 2,042 Pennsylvania residents died due to poisoning; an average of one resident every four 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). Drug poisoning is responsible for 90 percent of all poisoning deaths in the Commonwealth. The PA Department of Health reported 398 poisoning deaths in Lehigh and Northampton counties over the period of 2006-2010; 63% of these deaths occurred in persons between the ages of 20-49. 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 as in the adult population, but are most common among children less than six years of age and often poisoning occurs in the home. 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. cough and cold medicines, vitamins) are common causes of child poisonings.

Here are tips to reduce poisoning:
 
For Children
• Keep all medications out of 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 reach.
• If you take pills, do so out of sight of children.
• Know what plants are poisonous and keep them out of reach.
• Always read the labels of all medications and follow the instructions when giving medication to a 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.

“Simple precautionary steps can help prevent accidental poisoning. A little education is often all a parent needs to protect children from accidental poisonings,” said Allentown Health Bureau Director Vicky Kistler. “Reduce the risk of poisoning by cleaning 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 26, 2014 from 10am to 2pm. The locations of drop off sites will be announced in April,” Kistler added.

Residents who have expired and unused over-the-counter and prescription medications can also discard those medications in permanent collection boxes that are located in 10 police departments in Lehigh County, including the Allentown Police Patrol Station at 10th and Hamilton streets. The Allentown site is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Items that are accepted are prescription and over-the-counter medications, samples, vitamins, prescription ointments, prescription patches and pet medications.

Items that are not accepted are syringes, needles, Sharps or other sharp objects, medications from businesses and clinics, lotions or liquids, aerosol cans, inhalers, hydrogen peroxide and thermometers.

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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