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National Poison Prevention Week: Much to celebrate and still much work to do

Posted: March 22nd, 2016 | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

The 3rd week in March has been designated as National Poison Prevention Week (NPPW) by each and every President since John F. Kennedy started the tradition in 1962.  The Illinois Poison Center is a strong advocate of poison prevention and has worked with the Governor, Legislature and City of Chicago to have the entire month of March declared Illinois Poison Prevention Month (IPPM).

I know, it seems like overkill, but the trends and outcomes of lowering pediatric poisoning in Illinois is worthy of the effort.

First the good:

For years, during the month of March, the Illinois Poison Center has partnered with hundreds of health educators, nurses, teachers and other organizations around the state reaching thousands of families.  The overall focus concentrates on raising awareness of poisoning in the home and to provide strategies on how to prevent them.

And the outcome of over a decade of work is staggering:  The incidence of individuals presenting to an emergency department with an injury from poisoning is 20% lower in Illinois when compared to the national average.

National number of ED Visits in 2013 Rate per 100,000 population Illinois Number of ED visits in 2013 Rate per 100,000 population Difference from National Rate
Poisoning by all medications and drugs 871,985 267.3 29,446 228.6 -14%
Poisoning by non-medicinal substances 414,835 131.2 11,780 91.5 -30%
Total 1,286,820 398.5 41,226 320.1 20% lower

Source:  AHRQ Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project

This is as testament to the great work that all of our volunteer educators do, not just in March, but year round as they work to make their communities safer.  If Illinois were at the national average, there would be over 10,000 additional emergency department visits for poisoning each year in our state.

Now the not-so-good:

While Illinois has gotten better at decreasing non-medicinal poisoning, we continue to have challenges in decreasing poisoning from medications.  This is seen even in small children under the age of 5.  In looking at the top 5 substances reported to the Illinois Poison Center that involve children under five, non-medicinal poisoning as a whole is down, but poisoning from medications is increasing.

Top 5 poison exposures in children 5 and under from 2012 to 2015:

Category 2012  2015
Analgesics 9609 9733
Sedative Hypnotics 5084 5553
Cosmetics and personal care products 6137 5422
Cleaning substances 4746 5003
Antidepressants 3269 3751


So for NPPW, here are some tips to reduce pediatric medication poisoning to medication in your home and community:

  • Don’t rely on packaging to protect your kids — child-resistant packaging does not mean childproof packaging.
  • Never prepare or give medication to a child in the dark: You may give the wrong dosage or even the wrong medication.
  • Never leave vitamin bottles, aspirin bottles, or other medications on kitchen tables, countertops, bedside tables, or dresser tops. Small children may decide to try to copy adults and help themselves.
  • Never tell a child that medicine tastes like candy.
  • Store all medications and supplements — prescription and nonprescription — out of sight and out of reach of children, preferably in a locked cabinet or locked medication box. Just because cabinets are up high doesn’t mean kids can’t get their hands on what’s in them — they can climb using a toilet or countertop to get to items in unlocked cabinets.
  • Make sure purses and bags — yours and guests’ — that could contain medications are kept out of the reach of kids at all times.
  • Always keep pills and liquids in their original containers.
  • Be aware of all medications in your home (and in those of relatives if your kids spend a lot of time there).


Until next time . . .

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  1. Free Materials for Illinois Poison Prevention Month
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  3. It’s Illinois Poison Prevention Month!
  4. “Poison”…What’s it Really Mean?
  5. Poison Prevention for Man’s Best Friend

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