Editor’s Note: This story originally published on azcentral.com. It has been edited for a national audience.
More people in the U.S. die from unintentional poisoning than from motor-vehicle deaths and falls, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In 2015, 47,478 people died from unintentional poisoning in 2015, the CDC reported. Drugs, both pharmaceutical and illicit, cause the vast majority of poisoning deaths.
How can you get help in preventing poisonings? And where can you get answers if you suspect a poisoning?
The American Association of Poison Control Centers “supports the nation’s 55 poison centers in their efforts to prevent and treat poison exposures.
“Poison centers offer free, confidential, expert medical advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222 and online at http://www.PoisonHelp.org,” according to its website.
Here’s what you need to know to keep those around you safe.
1. Know household poisons
Many common household items can be dangerous if ingested. According to the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center and the American Association of Poison Control Centers, items can include:
- Cosmetics and toiletries, including contact lens disinfectant and hand sanitizer
- Tobacco and e-cigarette products
- Insect repellents and Pesticides
- Button batteries, which can be found in greeting cards and key fobs
- Car care items
- Glow sticks and fireworks
2. Be mindful of surroundings
Families can protect children and pets from poisoning by keeping items out of reach and in locked areas.
Banner Poison and Drug Information Center Clinical Educator Maureen Roland advises families to survey their homes to see what children could find that could harm them.
“Get down on the ground, on their level, to see what they have access to,” Roland said.
Families should never call medicine “candy” and should teach children to ask for permission before touching or tasting things, according to the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center.
Prescriptions should be kept in their original containers and be safely disposed of when no longer needed. Also, it is important to use the products as directed.
Carbon monoxide detectors are another safety mechanism to put in homes, and families should be mindful of asbestos, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. The agency says asbestos can cause mesothelioma, which affects 2,000-3,000 people each year.
3. Be aware outdoors
According to the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center, any plant can cause medical problems, including an allergic reaction.
Do not assume a plant is harmless if birds or wildlife eat it. Plants can be harmful to pets, as well.
“Watch your kids when they are outside playing,” Roland said.
Poisonous plants can be harmful to touch or eat.
Some poisonous plants include:
- candelabras cactus
- castor bean
- century plant
- jimson weed
- chinaberry tree
- Mexican bird of paradise
- silver leaf night shade
- Texas mountain laurel
- silver leaf night shade
- tree tobacco
Gardeners should label their plants with the common and botanical names. All mushrooms should be removed from yards. Only trained experts can identify edible mushrooms, according to the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center.
4. Call poison control
Roland suggests people program the hotline number programmed in their phones as a precaution. Calling 800-222-1222 will put you in contact with your nearest poison center. The centers accept calls 24/7.
A poison control center should be contacted even if the victim does not look ill, she said.
“Don’t go to the internet,” Roland said. “Don’t start searching around and try to find the answer yourself.”
The Banner Poison and Drug Information Center staff includes nurses, pharmacists and doctors.
“Even if you are not sure, call us,” Roland said.
Staff can give advice on first-aid, symptoms and more.
Seventy-one percent of the calls made to Banner in 2017 were managed onsite or at home.
Center staff will follow up to make sure symptoms are not becoming worse, Roland said.
If a person needs immediate medical attention, the centers can send a paramedic to the victim.
People should call 911 instead of the poison center if someone is not breathing, is unconscious or is having a seizure, according to the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center.