Some household products can be poisonous

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Putting medicine up high
Keeping medications up high is just one of the steps you can take to help prevent poisonings at home. (Image from the Up and Away campaign)

Did you know most poisonings happen at home? Every day we use products to keep our cars working, our homes clean and our bodies healthy. Most of these products have gotten safer over the years. However, some still can be poisonous to people or animals if used in the wrong way. Here are some basic steps you can take to keep your family and pets safe:

Use everyday products safely:

  • Keep products in their original containers with the cap on tight.
  • Store up high, out of sight of children and pets, and away from food and drink.
  • Read the label before using the product each time.
  • Get rid of unwanted products safely. There may be instructions on the product label, or you can try calling your town office or local waste disposal facility.
  • Store the poison center number, 1-800-222-1222, in your cell phone. You can call us with questions or if something unexpected happens.

Here are just a few household items that can be poisonous if used in the wrong way:

  • Acids and alkalis, such as toilet and drain cleaners and hair relaxers
  • Alcohol-containing products, such as hand sanitizer, mouthwash and perfume or cologne
  • Automotive products like antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid and gasoline
  • Button or disc batteries
  • Certain glues and adhesives, such as epoxy
  • Household cleaners like furniture polish, pine oil and laundry detergent or pods
  • Medications
  • Pesticides, such as mothballs and rat poison

Remember, the poison center is here 24/7 to help you treat possible poisonings, or just to answer your questions. Call 1-800-222-1222 or chat online.

Posted in Poison Prevention | Comments Off on Some household products can be poisonous

Calling the poison center: My child ate toothpaste

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In September we looked at what you can expect when you call the poison center. This month we’ll show you how a call might sound. The example here is pretty common—what do you do if your child got into the toothpaste? With brightly colored packages and kid-friendly flavors, it’s no wonder this happens a lot!

As you’ll see reading the script, having the tube with you when you contact the poison center (1-800-222-1222 or chat online) can be really helpful. Some toothpaste is fluoride-free “training” toothpaste for young children, while most kinds have fluoride to fight cavities.

Toothpaste
Toothpaste photo by Mauren Veras, Creative Commons

Poison Center: Poison center. How may I help you?

Caller: Hi, I found my daughter eating toothpaste out of the tube and I’m not sure if I should be worried.

PC: OK, how old is your daughter?

Caller: 3 years old

PC: And how much does she weigh?

Caller: About 30 or 35 pounds

PC: How long ago did she swallow the toothpaste?

Caller: It was probably about 5 minutes ago

PC: What is the name of the toothpaste? Can you read me the active ingredient on the label?

Caller: It’s “Dora the Explorer” from Colgate. It says it has 0.24% sodium fluoride, 0.15% fluoride ion.

PC: How much do you think she swallowed?

Caller: There’s still a lot left in the tube, so I wouldn’t think much. Maybe a tablespoon?

PC: How does she look? Any complaints?

Caller: No, she looks fine. She’s playing right now.

PC: OK, I’m going to do a quick calculation.

(caller briefly placed on hold)

PC: Your daughter is going to be fine. Just have her drink a glass of milk. Call back if she gets an upset stomach or throws up.

Caller: Great. Thanks so much!

Since toothpaste-related poisonings depend on how much the child weighs and how much fluoride they swallowed, a call like this can save hours of worry and unnecessary trip to the emergency room. Visit our poison index for more information on fluoride.

Posted in Poison Prevention | Comments Off on Calling the poison center: My child ate toothpaste

Is it safe to give your child Orajel or Anbesol?

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Baby with teething toysThe FDA no longer recommends over-the-counter teething relief products that contain benzocaine, which is a medication that numbs pain. Though it’s rare, swallowing benzocaine can cause a dangerous condition called methemoglobinemia, in which not enough oxygen is carried in the blood.

What are some ways that you can relieve your child’s teething pain, without using numbing medications like Orajel or Anbesol?

  • Give them something hard and cool to chew on. Make sure it is clean, and large enough they can’t choke on it, and supervise them closely. Some possibilities are a frozen teething ring, frozen bagel, popsicle, chilled pacifier or frozen wet washcloth.
  • Gently massage their gums.
  • Give them some over-the-counter pain relieving medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil).  Always check with your child’s doctor before giving medication.
  • Comfort and distract your child. Sing a favorite song, read a book, rock your child, or gently message them. Breastfeeding can also help.

If you have given your child an over-the-counter medication that contains benzocaine, or if you have question about the risk of using these products, call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222 or chat online.

Posted in Medication Safety, Poison Prevention | Comments Off on Is it safe to give your child Orajel or Anbesol?

Medication safety: Put the cap on

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Oops! This medication bottle has been left out with the cap off
Oops! A member of the NNEPC team came home to find this scene
while their spouse was giving medicine to one of the kids.
Medication with the cap on
That’s better! For safety, put the cap back on your medication
bottle as soon as possible.

Where do you store your medication?

If you answered up high and out of children’s reach, congratulations! You are off to a great start with medication safety.

But what do you do with medication while you are using it?

The NNEPC receives many calls about young children who get into medication that has just been used, but left out, often with the cap off. A study from Safe Kids looking at poison center calls and emergency department visits also found that this is a common scenario.

To help keep children from getting into medication, always put the cap back on as soon as you are finished with the medication, and put it away, up high and out of reach, as soon as possible.

If a child does get into medication, call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222 or chat online. Most of these cases can be safely managed with fast, expert help from the poison center, helping you avoid a visit to the emergency room.

Posted in Medication Safety, Poison Prevention | Comments Off on Medication safety: Put the cap on

What happens when you call the poison center?

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Concerned parentMany people who call the poison center are understandably worried, but the good news is nearly 9 out of every 10 calls from home can be safely managed with fast, expert help from our poison specialists, without needing to go to the hospital or doctor’s office.

When you get on the phone with a poison specialist, there are a few things they will want to know to help you:

  • How old is the patient?
  • About how much does the patient weigh?
  • What is the name of the product or substance involved? Be as specific as you can—it can help to have the bottle or packaging with you on the phone. Poison experts use a database that contains detailed information on thousands of products.
  • How much of the substance did the patient swallow, breathe in or get on their skin? If you don’t know, the poison specialist will help you estimate.

The Dose Makes the PoisonBased on this information, the poison specialist will tell you what you need to do. It could be as simple as drinking some water or eating a popsicle. In rare circumstances, they may need to send you to the hospital. If so, they will ask which hospital you are closest to and call ahead to let them know you are coming.

You may be placed on hold at some point during your call to the poison center. Don’t worry—the poison specialist will be right back with you.

The poison center will also collect a little bit of personal information from you for your medical chart—your first name, the patient’s first name, your phone number and the zip code you are calling from. This information is confidential. This information is important because it helps us to find your case if you ever need to call about it again for any reason.

Posted in Poison Prevention | Comments Off on What happens when you call the poison center?

Have you seen this mushroom?

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Amanita MuscariaWe’ve had a number of cases in the last few days of young children getting into amanita muscaria or similar mushrooms in the yard. These can make kids sick.

If your child or pet eats some of a wild mushroom, give us a call at 1-800-222-1222 or chat online.

If you have young children, it’s a good idea to try to remove wild mushrooms from your yard as well.Amanita Muscaria

Posted in Poison Prevention, Regional News | Comments Off on Have you seen this mushroom?

Driving and medications don’t always mix

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For many of us, driving is part of our everyday routine, whether it’s getting to work, running errands or visiting friends and family. But certain medications can make it unsafe for a person to drive because they can cause side effects or reactions.

These effects can be most pronounced when you are starting a new medication or changing the dosage of a medication you already take. Side effects can also happen when you stop taking a medication. Talk to your doctor when there are changes in your medications or your health to see how they may affect your driving.

Cars in traffic
Photo by epSos.de, Creative Commons 3.0

Common effects that can make it unsafe to drive include:

  • Sleepiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Slowed movements or reactions
  • Fainting
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Confusion
  • Jitters

The label on your medication may recommend not driving if these side effects or reactions are likely. Common medications that may make it unsafe to drive include:

  • Medications for anxiety, depression or other psychiatric conditions
  • Opioid pain medications or products containing codeine
  • Sleep aids
  • Cold and allergy products
  • Medications for diabetes

It is not safe to drive if you are tired or drowsy, or feel “off.” If you are tired or drowsy, taking a stimulant such as caffeine (NoDoz, Vivarin, etc.), ephedrine or pseudoephedrine does not make it safe to drive.

What if you need to drive, but are taking one of these medications?

Talk to your health care provider. They may be able to change the dosage or when you need to take the medication. They may also be able to suggest a medication that is safer to use when driving.

If you have questions about medications, contact the poison center for fast and expert help. Call us at 1-800-222-1222 or chat online.

Posted in Medication Safety, Poison Prevention | Comments Off on Driving and medications don’t always mix

How to read an over-the-counter medication label

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Whether you are treating a headache or have a cold, it is important to read the label every time you take an over-the-counter (nonprescription) medication. The label will tell you what you need to know to safely take your medication and avoid a medication error or poisoning.

The FDA requires that the same information be listed in the same way on all nonprescription medications, from toothpaste to pain relievers, using the Drug Facts label. There is an example below. Note that dietary supplements are not required to use this label.

The Drug Facts label gives the following information:

  • Active ingredient: The active ingredient is the ingredient in the product that has a medical effect. Some products have more than one active ingredient. This section shows:
       
      Medication label - chlorpheniramine
      Drug Facts label for chlorpheniramine, an antihistamine
    Image courtesy of the FDA – Click to see a larger version
    • The name of the active ingredient
    • How much of the ingredient is in each unit of measure. The unit might be 1 tablet, 30 milliliters of liquid, etc.
  • Purpose: This section says what the product does and its drug category, such as antacid or pain reliever.
  • Uses: This section lists the symptoms or medical condition the product is meant to prevent or treat.
  • Warnings: Not every medication is right for every person. This section lists:
    • Situations in which you should not take the medication
    • Possible interactions with other medications or food
    • When to stop taking the product
    • When to call the doctor
    • Safety information, such as to keep the medication out of the reach of children
  • Directions: In many cases there is more than one set of directions, based on age or weight. The directions give instructions on:
    • How to take the medication
    • How much of the medication to take
    • How often to take the medication
    • How long to take it (for example, how many days)
  • Inactive ingredients: This section lists substances that do not have a medical effect. They include substances that add flavor or color, or that hold the medication together (binding agents).
  • Other information: This section often includes information on how to store the medication. It may have additional important notes not included in the other sections.

 

Posted in National News | Comments Off on How to read an over-the-counter medication label

How to avoid some common medication errors

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According to a recent study, every 8 minutes a child under 6 in the United States gets the wrong medication or the wrong dose of their medication. There are a number of ways medication errors can happen with children. Here are some of the most common:

  • The child gets the medication twice. It’s easy for this to happen. Maybe Dad gives the child their medication at 4 p.m., but doesn’t mention it to Mom, who gives the child medication again at 5 p.m.
  • The child gets the incorrect dose. This can happen because of confusion about units (how many milliliters are in a teaspoon?) or from using imprecise measuring tools, like a spoon from the silverware drawer instead of a medication measuring cup or oral syringe.
  • The child gets the wrong medication. This often happens because the caregiver grabs a medication without carefully reading the label to make sure it is the right one.

Everyone makes mistakes, but there are easy steps to take to help prevent medication errors:

Medication measuring cup

A medication measuring cup

  • Read the label every time. Make sure you are giving the right medication, and double check the dose you need to give.
  • Use a medication measuring cup or syringe. Always use a precise measuring tool, not a kitchen spoon. Most children’s medications these days come with an oral syringe or measuring cup for you to use.
  • Keep track of doses. Write down the date and time when you give your child medication, or track it in an app on your smartphone. Make sure all caregivers have access to the information to avoid double dosing.
  • Know the poison center number. Keep a poison center magnet on your refrigerator and store 1-800-222-1222 in your phone so that you can get quick, expert help if a mistake happens.
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Take these steps to help prevent poisonings in your home

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How safe is your home? We all try to keep our homes safe for kids, pets, visitors, and ourselves, but it’s easy to miss things. Let’s take a look at some steps you can take to help prevent poisonings.

HousePoison Center Number

Do you have the poison center number handy? You never know when a poisoning will happen, so be prepared.

  • Keep a poison center magnet on your refrigerator. If you don’t have a magnet, you can call 1-800-222-1222 to request one.
  • Save the number in your cell phone – 1-800-222-1222.

Medications

Medications are the top cause of poisonings among all age groups.

  • Keep medications in their original containers, or in a child-resistant pill reminder box.
  • Keep medications up high, out of the reach of children and pets, preferably in a locked cabinet.
  • Go through your medications at least twice a year, and get rid of ones that have expired or you no longer need.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a gas that can make you sick, or even kill you. You can’t see or smell it, which makes it especially dangerous.

  • Install carbon monoxide alarms in your home, and test them regularly to make sure they are in working order. There should be at least one alarm on each floor, and at least one alarm near each sleeping area.
  • Have your heating equipment (furnace, etc.) tested by a heating professional before you turn it on in the fall.

Cleaning Products

There is a wide variety of cleaning products out there – everything from toilet bowl cleaner to furniture polish to dish soap.

  • Keep all cleaning products up high, out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Store cleaning products in their original containers.
  • Store cleaning products separately from food and personal care products.

Plants

Certain plants can be harmful if eaten by people or pets.

  • Know what plants you have in your house. If you’re not sure, take samples to a local nursery, which may be able to identify them for you.
  • Once you know what you have, call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222 or chat online to find out if the plants in your home can be poisonous.

If you have any questions about possibly poisonous products, you can always call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222, or chat online. We’re here 24/7 to help.

Posted in Medication Safety, Poison Prevention | Comments Off on Take these steps to help prevent poisonings in your home