March 21, 2017

All of us can help prevent accidental poisonings. Here’s how.


As parents, keeping our children safe is always a first priority isn’t it?

It’s mind-boggling to think that poisoning is the leading cause of injury death in Tennessee, surpassing motor vehicle accidents, drownings and gunshot wounds. Poisoning is a big deal and poison prevention really is for everyone, from children to seniors. That’s why since 1962, the third week of March has been proclaimed as National Poison Prevention Week. In 2017, the observation is March 19-25. During this time, we can raise awareness about the dangers of poisoning. And it’s a really good time to look around the house and poison-proof before an actual emergency.

Children are the most likely victims of accidental poisoning. A lot of poisons look like food or drink. So, when children first begin to crawl, it’s a good idea to teach them to “Ask First”: Ask an adult before eating or drinking anything. Here are some other ways to prevent poisoning:

Store poisons safely

  • Store all medicines away from household products and food.
  • Never put any medicine or chemical in a cup or soft drink bottle.
  • Keep medicine and household products in their original containers.
  • Use child-resistant packaging. But remember – nothing is childproof.
  • If you have a young child who is able to walk or crawl, keep household plants and products stored above floor level, not beneath the sink.

Use poisons safely

  • Read the label on all medicines and household products and heed warnings and cautions.
  • Are children in the home? Take the product or medicine with you to answer the door or the phone.
  • Lock up products and medicines after using them.
  • Is it medicine? Call it medicine, not candy.
  • Children learn by imitation. Take your medicines where children can’t watch.
  • Always turn on the light when giving medicines. Never take medicines in the dark.

And one of the most important safety tips is to know what to do in the case of a poison emergency. Don’t wait for symptoms and don’t “doctor” yourself. If you suspect a poisoning, call Tennessee Poison Center for treatment advice about any kind of poison. The Poison Help toll-free number is 1-800-222-1222. (Save this number is your cell phone so you will be sure and have it if there is an emergency.)

The Tennessee Poison Center provides the Poison Help hotline and poison prevention education for every Tennessee resident, and it’s the only poison control center in Tennessee. When you call, a specially trained nurse, pharmacist or doctor will help. Last year, Tennessee Poison Center received 91,000 calls from Tennessee residents. All calls are free and confidential.

It’s important you know how to prevent household poisonings — it can save a life. Let’s work together to keep everyone in Tennessee safe from poisons.

Josephine Darwin is Director of Community Outreach at Tennessee Poison Center. She has been educating Tennesseans about poison prevention for 17  years.