Poison Prevention

National Poison Prevention Week was established in 1961 to call attention to the dangers of poisonings and how to prevent them from occurring. In 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that poisoning is now the leading cause of death from injuries in the United States, surpassing even motor vehicle crashes. The majority (80%) of poisonings involve people who swallow a substance and most of the time (79%), the exposure was unintentional. More specifically in Utah, 60% of the calls to the poison center are for children under 6 years of age who swallowed cosmetics and personal care products.

Poisonings happen at all ages:                                                                   

  • Birth- 6 mos- These poisonings are usually the result of adult error, giving wrong dose or medicine.
  • 6 mos- 2 yrs- At this age, children are mobile and put things in their mouth.
  • 3-5 yrs- Curious children climb and reach high shelves.  They can be confused by cosmetics, chemicals and meds that look like food and drink.
  • 6-12 yrs- Children are curious and can easily get into products, especially when improperly stored or lacking adult supervision.
  • 13-19 yrs- Teen may be pressured to try drugs or alcohol.  Keep prescription drugs, cough medicines and other commonly abused substances locked up.
  • 19-59 yrs- Over-the-counter and prescription pain medicines and household cleaners tend to be the most common cause of poisonings.
  • 60+ yrs- Medication errors such as double dosing, missing a dose or taking the wrong dose are common for this age group.  Household cleaners continue to pose a risk if used improperly.

A poison is any substance that can harm someone if it used in the wrong way, by the wrong person or in the wrong amount. The American Association of Poison control Center’s National Poison Data System has listed the top exposures below.

Top Exposures by Category

  • Analgesics/Pain Relievers-Utah now ranks fourth in the nation for overdose deaths.
  • Cosmetics/ Personal Care Products- Most commonly ingested by children.
  • Household Cleaning Substances- May create harmful fumes which can be inhaled when mixed together. 

Safety inventions such as child resistant packaging and campaigns to raise awareness around the subject have saved numerous lives.  Still, those who care for children must be vigilant when household chemicals or medications are being used as poisonings often occur when adults are using a product but are distracted, by a telephone or another child, even for just a short time.   Make certain that household products, chemicals and medications are stored out of a child’s sight and reach at all times. Be especially vigilant when visiting other homes where safeguards may not be in place.

Poisoning Prevention Tips:

  • Keep possible poisons up and out of reach. Use safety latches.
  • Do not mix cleaning products, which can result in irritating gases.
  • Store products in original containers.
  • Never leave open products unattended.
  • Follow medicine dosing instructions carefully.
  • Never call medication ‘candy’ to get a child to take it.  
  • Keep batteries (especially AAA, button batteries) out of a child’s reach.
  • Child resistant doesn’t mean child proof.
  • Use carbon monoxide detectors in your home.

Poison prevention techniques can be utilized by people of all ages helping them and those around them to stay safe.  Be prepared for poisoning emergencies by saving the poison help line in your phone today. 1-800-222-1222




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