Each year, thousands of people become injured or ill due to unintentional poisonings. These may occur through skin contact, inhalation, absorption or ingestion. Household products such as cleaning liquids and powders, paint thinners, drain cleaners, windshield washer fluid and polishes are found in most homes. Because they are so common, people often forget how dangerous they are.
It is not always easy to recognize if someone has been poisoned. Unless the person tells someone, asks for help or behaves inappropriately, no one may know that an unintentional poisoning has even occurred. This is especially true of children. Children are more likely to remain silent because they fear being scolded or punished. Items commonly ingested by children are cough and cold medications, Ibuprofen, Tylenol and vitamins. The most obvious sign of poisoning involving a child may be an open pill bottle, half eaten plant, open container or the complaint of a stomach ache.
If you suspect that a poisoning has occurred, and it does not appear to be life-threatening, call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. If you suspect that someone's life is in danger call 9-1-1.
Harmful substances often found in and around homes include:
• Prescription and non-prescription medications
• Ammonia, bleach, dish soap, alcohol, spray cleaners, toothpaste
• Garden chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers
• Antifreeze, paint and paint products (kerosene, turpentine)
• Swimming pool chemicals
• Plants such as poinsettias, oleanders, dieffenbachias, azaleas, mistletoe, and pyracantha berries
You can safeguard your home by:
• Installing safety latches on medicine cabinets, drawers and cupboards where poisons are stored
• Using products with child resistant caps
• Keeping all products in their original container
• Keeping chemicals in the garage or storage areas out of a child's reach
• Discarding all old, unused and unlabelled medicine
• Keeping shampoo, mouthwash, toothpaste, cosmetics, etc. out of a child’s reach
• Putting a key outside of the bathroom if the door has a lock on it
• Keeping a list of the plants in your home and garden in case of ingestion by a child or a pet
• Never calling medicine candy and don’t take medications in front of children
Remember to get rid of outdated and/or unwanted household products by taking them to Tempe’s Household Products Collection Center, 1320 E. University Drive (northeast corner of University and Dorsey in front of the Tempe Fire Training Center). For more information on this City program please call 480-858-2223.
Most household chemical containers carry symbols and safety warnings on the labels. Learn the symbols and follow the instructions. By doing so you could prevent an injury or even save a life.
Swallowed Poison - Always keep on hand at home a one ounce bottle of Syrup of Ipecac (available without a prescription). Use only on advice of the Poison Control Center, emergency department, or physician.
Medicine: Do not give anything by mouth until calling for advice.
Chemical or Household Products: Unless patient is unconscious, having convulsions, or cannot swallow, give small sips of milk or water immediately, then call for professional advice about whether you should make the patient vomit or not.
Poison in the Eye - Flood the eye with lukewarm water poured from a large glass 2 or 3 inches from the eye. Have the patient blink as much as possible while flooding the eye. Do not force the eyelid open.
Poison on the Skin - Remove contaminated clothing and flood skin with water for 10 minutes. Then wash gently with soap and water rinse. Exception: Dry lime. Brush off first, then flush with water.
Inhaled Poison - Immediately get the person to fresh air. Avoid breathing fumes. Open doors and windows wide.