As much as we try to keep our family safe, poisoning remains a very real danger. Even everyday household items can cause serious harm. In fact, there are more than 2 million poisoning cases reported in the United States each year according to the American Red Cross. Some were fatal, but many were preventable.
Every March, we observe the National Poison Prevention Awareness Month to raise awareness of the dangers of poisoning and ways to prevent unintentional poisonings. Before we go any further, remember to keep the National Poison Control Center number (1-800-222-1222) handy in case of an emergency involving any potentially-toxic substance.
Now, let’s explore the different types of poisoning and how to avoid them.
Types of poisoning and the risks involved
Poisons can be swallowed, inhaled, absorbed or injected. Poisoning can range from mild to life-threatening. Common types of poisoning include:
- Drug poisoning. This type of poisoning occurs when people take too much medication or take the wrong kind of medication. Drugs contain active ingredients, which can be poisonous if taken in large amounts or accidentally mixed with other medications.
- Carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is the number one cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the United States. This colorless and odorless gas can be found in burning fuels, such as wood or gasoline, and it can build up indoors if there is a faulty heating system or blocked chimney. Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause confusion, unconsciousness and eventually death if it builds up in a confined space.
- Household and personal care products poisoning. This type of poisoning is caused by the ingestion or inhalation of household items, such as cleaning products and medications. These products may contain toxic chemicals, which can cause irritation, burns or serious health issues.
- Chemical poisoning. This type of poisoning occurs when people come into contact with toxic chemicals like solvents and lead. These chemicals can cause skin irritation, breathing problems and organ damage if exposed to high levels of the chemical over an extended period of time.
- Alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning occurs when people consume too much alcohol. It can cause confusion, difficulty breathing, vomiting and even death.
- Food poisoning. This type of poisoning occurs when people consume contaminated food or beverages. Foodborne illness can cause serious health issues, such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
How to recognize symptoms of poisoning
If someone is exhibiting any of the following symptoms, it may be a sign of poisoning:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Diarrhea or abdominal pain
- Confusion and disorientation
- Severe headaches
- Difficulty breathing
If you suspect that someone has been poisoned, seek medical attention immediately. Your doctor will be able to diagnose and treat the poisoning effectively and quickly.
Tips to avoid accidental poisoning
The best way to prevent poisoning is to be aware of the risks and take steps to avoid them. Here are some tips for staying safe:
- Keep all medications, cleaning supplies and other potentially dangerous products safely out of reach from children or any unauthorized person. Keep a first-aid kit in your home and make sure it’s stocked with all the necessary items.
- Read labels carefully and follow directions when using any chemicals or medications. Store them away properly after use.
- Check for carbon monoxide (CO) detectors in your home and place one near each bedroom. Change the batteries at least twice a year and test the CO detector every month.
- Always supervise children while they are taking medications, cleaning or playing with potentially hazardous objects. Teach them to never eat anything that isn’t food or drink from any containers that aren’t beverages.
Common household items that can be poisonous
Common household items that can be poisonous include:
- Household cleaners, such as bleach or ammonia
- Pesticides and insecticides
- Antifreeze and other automotive fluids
- Lighter fluid and paint thinner
- Batteries, including buttons and rechargeable batteries
- Medicines, both prescription and over the counter
- Tobacco products, such as cigarettes and chewing tobacco
Remember, if you suspect someone has been poisoned, call your local poison control center immediately or dial 911 for an emergency. Never try to treat poisoning yourself. With the right measures, you can greatly reduce your risk of accidental poisoning and help keep your family safe.
What to do if someone has been exposed to a deadly substance and needs immediate medical attention
If you suspect that someone has been exposed to a deadly substance and needs immediate medical attention, call 911. Do not try to treat the poisoning yourself or transport the person to the hospital by yourself. Stay calm and provide as much information as possible about what has happened and what type of poison was swallowed or inhaled so that the emergency personnel can respond quickly and provide the best possible treatment. It is also important to stay with the person until medical help arrives, as they may need your support and assistance.
First aid measures in case of suspected poisoning
If you suspect a person has been poisoned, here are some first aid measures you can according to Poison Help:
- If the person is not breathing, call 911.
- If the person inhaled poison, get him or her fresh air right away.
- If the person has poison on the skin, take off any clothing the poison touched. Rinse skin with running water for 15 to 20 minutes.
- If the person has poison in the eyes, rinse eyes with running water for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Do not use activated charcoal when you think someone may have been poisoned.
Get help immediately
Poison precaution and prevention is always better than cure. If you or someone you’re caring for is experiencing symptoms of poisoning, get help right away. You can also speak with a medical health care provider for questions or more information about poisoning.