Of porcupines and poison prevention

Did you ever think a porcupine might improve your health?

Alisa Zapp Machalek, writing for the Inside Life Sciences series at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences website, has some interesting news about how porcupines could end up helping your health.

PorcupineResearchers in Massachusetts have been studying the barbed quills of porcupines to see if they might have uses in medicine. So far they have created medical tape with tiny barbs that they think could help fix hernias or close surgical wounds. If their tests are successful, these patches of tape could replace the meshes and staples hospitals currently use.

On top of that, they think studying the barbed quills could help them design needles that hurt less. Interesting stuff!

Here at the Northern New England Poison Center, we have our own helpful health-promoting porcupine. Spike, the poison prevention porcupine puppet, has been the center of our National Poison Prevention Week activities for five years now.

Spike is the star of Spike’s Poison Prevention Adventure, a video for children in preschool through about first grade, that centers on the simple message of “If you don’t know what it is, stay away.” Through songs and games, Spike shows kids that his quills go up as a warning when he’s around something that might not be safe, but go back down around safe items.

Spike, the poison prevention porcupineIn conjunction with National Poison Prevention Week, the NNEPC has been holding its own Spike Education Program for schools each March since 2009, reaching more than 47,000 students over the last four years. Participating schools get a copy of the video, a plush Spike hand puppet, and take-home poison prevention materials for their students. They can also report on their events for a chance to win individual plus finger puppets for their students. For this year’s Poison Prevention Week, March 18-22, we had nearly 70 schools sign up for the program across Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

For more information or to download program materials, see our Spike program page. You can also order your own Spike Education Kit in our store.

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