Poison Risk Factors and Prevention

[su_youtube url=”https://youtu.be/3V9g1MjF4aA”] [su_expand more_text=”Show More”] There are several risk factors associated with poisoning. Risk factors for children under 6:

  • Children’s curious nature – Children are curious and they like to explore. Sometimes they taste and inhale unsafe products or even get unsafe products on their skin or in their eyes.
  • Children’s desire to mimic adult behavior – Children often mimic the behavior of adults. For example, children might take a medicine because they saw an adult take it.
  • Capabilities change with age – parents may not realize when their child can do something new, such as opening a drawer or bottle.
  • Inadequate supervision – Children left alone, even for a few moments, are at greatest risk of poisoning.
  • Improper storage – Potential poisons that are left within the reach of children increase their risk of poisoning.
    • Be aware that household products and medicines that are stored in child-resistant packaging are NOT child proof! Children may be able to open these containers.
      • The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) enforced the Poison Prevention Packaging Act of 1970 (15 U.S.C. §§ 1471-1476). The Act requires child-resistant packaging for various drugs and household products.
      • Child-resistant packaging is designed to be significantly difficult for children under the age of five to open.
    • Look-A-Likes – medications and household products can look like candy to a drink
    • Dares – young children will often are each other to eat berries in the yard or taste household cleaners

Prevention tips for children under 6:

  • Most poisonings are unintentional and preventable. Adults should talk to children about poisons.
    • Teach children to always ask first – never touch, smell, or taste anything without first checking with an adult to make sure it is safe.
    • Take medicine from safe adults only
    • Keep all medicines and household products out of reach and locked up high.
    • Use the correct measuring device for medication
    • Use child-resistant packaging.
    • Never call medicine candy.
    • And adults should never take medicine in front of children.

Risk factors for children ages 6-12:

  • Independence – as children get older, they become more independent and feel like they can do more on their own.
  • Inadequate supervision – there is less adult supervision as the child gets older.
  • Decision making – children may not always use proper logic when faced with a decision
  • Understanding label directions – children may misread or misinterpret medication and household product labels.
  • Dares – children are faced with dares from friends or classmates
  • Introduction to substance abuse – experimentation with drugs, alcohol, tobacco and household products start at a young age.

Prevention tips for children ages 6-12:

  • Most poisonings in children ages 6-12 are still unintentional but preventable
    • Talk to young children about the safe use of household products and medicines
    • Stress the importance of asking an adult before taking a medicine or using a household product
    • As children get older, review product labels with them so they can find the necessary information that will help them use the product safely
    • Children under the age of 12 should not take medicine on their own. An adult should supervise a child each time they take a medicine, even if it is something they take every day
    • Talk honestly about the dangers of misusing household products and medicine
    • Talk about peer pressure and dares

Risk factors for teens:

  • Inability to understand label directions – teens are at risk for poisoning if they don’t read the label fully or if the information is confusing.
  • Workplace exposures – teens may not have proper training or supervision when using potent degreasers, cleaners or other chemicals at their workplace.
  • Stress – grades, family pressure, and social lives can lead to medication or illicit drug use to take the edge off.
  • Peer pressure – use of alcohol, inhalants, over-the-counter medicines, prescription medicines, or illicit drugs might be seen as a way to fit in with a group of friends.
  • Substance abuse – substances that teens abused vary with time and can be determined by ease of access.
  • Suicide – suicide is a leading cause of death in teens
  • Misconceptions about medicine safety – many teens think that over-the-counter medicines are safer than prescription medicines, which are safer than illicit drugs. All are equally dangerous when used incorrectly.
  • Internet – there can be a lot of misinformation out there and teens may not know what sources are reputable.

Prevention tips for teens:

  • Many of these poisonings can be prevented if parents understand why they occur and know what signs and symptoms to look for.
    • Encourage teens to come to you with questions if they are not clear about the information found on a medicine or product label.
    • Remind teens to read product labels and follow directions exactly when using cleaning products and chemicals at work.
    • It is important for parents or caregivers to look for any change in a teen’s behavior, personality, school performance, relationship with friends, or interests. Keep an open dialogue with your teen and involve his or her physician if needed.
    • Maintain an open dialogue with your teen about the dangers of using alcohol, inhalants, over-the-counter medicines, prescription medicines or illicit substances. Encourage them to make good choices, even if others around them are making bad ones.
    • Talk with your teen about the proper use of over-the-counter and prescription medicine. Make sure he or she speaks with you or a trusted medical professional before taking any medicine to ensure it is the right medicine for a given health situation. Encourage them to follow the directions on medicines exactly and to come to you with questions or concerns.
    • Help teens sort through the internet for reputable sources of information. Look at the sites they are looking at. Be aware of the various videos and “challenges” that they are viewing.

Risk factors for adults and seniors:

  • Failing to read and follow the label directions – Failure to read and follow directions on product labels is a common reason adults get poisoned.
  • Drug interactions – over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, natural medicines and prescription medicines can interact with each other and/or with other things we eat and drink.
  • Workplace exposures – adults and seniors may be exposed to chemicals and substances in the workplace.
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicide – suicide is a leading cause of death in adults
  • Medication Errors – taking the wrong medicine, the wrong dose or at the wrong time.

Prevention tips for adults and seniors:

  • Although some poisonings that involve adults and seniors are intentional, others are not and can be prevented. Understanding the factors that put adults and seniors at risk of poisoning can help prevent future poisonings.
    • Always read the label before using products and taking medicines.
    • Take medicines only as prescribed by your doctor or as directed on the over-the-counter medicine label.
    • Do not take or share your medicine with a friend or family member.
    • Keep products in their original container; never in food containers.
    • Know the names, strengths, and uses of your medicines. It may be helpful to keep a list of your medications.
    • Try to fill your prescriptions at one pharmacy so your medicine profile can be regularly reviewed for drug interactions and duplications.
    • Use a medicine reminder system, such as a daily pill box or medicine chart.
    • Throw away old and expired medicines. Do not save medication for future use.

The poison control center can be a great resource. Call the Georgia Poison Center if you think you have made a medication error or have used a product in the wrong way. Do not wait for symptoms to develop. [/su_expand]