“Most people think of poisonings as something dramatic involving a toxic substance ingested
accidentally,” said Dr. Rick Herman, Chair of the Emergency Department at Good Samaritan Medical Center, “The truth is our communities are at risk for poisonings every day. Half of poisoning emergencies occur with small children as one might expect, but the other half involves suicide attempts, medication errors, chemical spills, exposures to toxic fumes, product misuse, drug interactions and even pet poisonings.”
Martin Goldberg, Director of Pharmacy concurs, “Proper storage of medications at home is essential.” Mr. Goldberg further states, “Medications need to be stored based on manufacturer’s guidelines, most likely at room temperature or refrigerated. Medications should not be stored in the bathroom, as the steam from the shower can cause the medication to degrade faster. Proper storage also means keeping medications where children and adolescents cannot access them. One of the main causes of prescription drug abuse is children and adolescents accessing their parent’s medications.”
Currently, the American Association of Poison Control Centers tracks each case of poisoning, maintaining a database of calls that come in from homes as well as medical professionals. The list below highlights the most current concerns for people to be aware of:
1) Bath Salts – Not your average bath salts, these synthetic cathinones (stimulants) are powerful drugs. The dangerous side effects that can be permanent and poison center experts include these among the worst they’ve seen. Marketed under names like Cloud 9 and Bliss, they are sold as “bath salts” to make them easier to obtain. Users have experienced paranoia, violent behavior, hallucinations, delusions, seizures, panic attacks, and increased blood pressure.
2) Carbon Monoxide – Called “The Silent Killer” because of the lack of odor and minimal symptoms. Carbon Monoxide poisonings occur from the use of home generators as well as leaving a vehicle to idle for an extended period of time. Cases increase during severe whether when people respond to power outages or storms with the improper use and placement of generators. Carbon Monoxide can seep into the home through a window causing illness and death.
3) Energy Drinks – Containing high amounts of sugar and caffeine. Pediatricians do not recommend caffeine and other stimulants substances in the diets of children and adolescents. Though moderate amounts of caffeine are safe for adults, younger children should not consume more than 100 mg a day, if at all. Energy drinks, however, don’t label the amounts of caffeine used or total all the separate ingredients that naturally contain caffeine, like: yerba mate, taurine, cacao, or guarana, among others. In addition, due to the drinks being considered a dietary supplement, they are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
4) Liquid Laundry Detergent Packets – These highly concentrated single-load liquid laundry detergent packets look like candy to young children. Small and easy for young hands to grab, they can cause excessive vomiting, wheezing and gasping. The liquid in the packets can also cause corneal abrasions (scratches to the eye) if the detergent gets into a child’s eyes. All household cleaners pose a threat to children and family pets and should always be kept out of reach or inside a locked cabinet.
5) E-Cigarettes – Designed to help smokers quit, these devices create the illusion of smoking without the harmful chemicals of traditional cigarettes. They contain liquid nicotine, which is still quite harmful to adults and children alike and should not be left where children who want to pretend to smoke like “mom or dad” can access them. Exposure to liquid nicotine can cause vomiting and nausea significant enough for ER visits. Adults using the products should take care not to get it on their skin and properly dispose of them to prevent children and pets from exposure to the remaining residue.
“If you find your toddler with an open medicine bottle, or your spouse has mixed cleaners and is coughing or wheezing, or you’ve inhaled a strange odor and feel dizzy or sick – you need to get help,” advised Dr. Herman “Contact your poison control center immediately or call 9-1-1.”
Poison centers offer free, confidential medical advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.