Poison Prevention Week is a great time to do some serious spring cleaning
Mar. 24, 2021
By Mary Wade Burnside
Happy spring! Some individuals might have taken advantage of more time at home this past year by conducting a thorough house cleaning, including poisonous items.
Then there are people like me, who were kept busy by the pandemic and who are just getting around to this.
Either way, it’s never a bad idea to go through your home and check what items could be harmful to any residents, especially youngsters and pets, and what you can do about it.
In 2016, more than 9,000 West Virginia residents were accidently exposed to poison, according to the West Virginia Poison Center. Ingestion of poisons results in 12,781 calls made to the WVPC.
In 2019, according to the National Capital Poison Center the 55 poison control centers in the United States provided telephone guidance for more than 2.1 million human poison exposures. Broken down, that’s:
• 6.4 poison exposures per 1,000 population
• 37.4 poison exposures in children younger than 6 years old per 1,000 children
• One poison exposure reported to U.S. poison control centers every 15 seconds.
This year, March 21-27 is National Poison Prevention Week, established by the American Association of Poison Control Centers.
So if spring doesn’t motivate you to inspect your house, perhaps these facts will.
Common types of poisonings include medication taken by someone for whom it hasn’t been prescribed, household cleaners, cosmetics and personal care products, toys and other foreign bodies such as small batteries, pesticides, gasoline and automotive products, plants and insect bites and stings.
Potentially poisonous materials such as paint, chemicals, medication and insecticides should be kept out of reach of young children. Their scent and color often attract them to the product, according to the WVPC.
Poisonings can be prevented with necessary precautions such as:
• Store all drugs and medications in their original containers.
• Never refer to medication as candy.
• Never put non-food products in food containers.
• Read and follow the directions on all products before using them.
• After using any drug or chemical, put the cap back on and store it out of reach and sight of children.
• Dispose of unused and out-of-date products properly.
The Morgantown Police Department has a drop-off box for unwanted and unused medications. It is in the lobby area of the department at 389 Spruce St. Drop-offs can be made from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Also, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration’s Prescription Drug Take Back Day will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 24. During this time, the MPD sets up locations at area parking lots to make drop-offs easier and more convenient. This year’s locations are the Kroger stores on Patteson Drive and Earl Core Road, as well as the Walmart Supercenter on Hornbeck Road.
Insect bites and stings are more common in the warmer months but there are ways to avoid contact with potentially dangerous insects. Insects such as bees and wasps generally will stay away from humans; however, if one comes close, the best thing to do is to retreat slowly. Certain plants such as clover and flower trees, as well as strong perfumes and bright colors, can attract them.
In West Virginia, there is only one harmful spider, the black widow, and two harmful snakes, the northern copperhead and the timber rattlesnake. According to the WVPC, bites from any other spider will result in redness and pain but can be treated with soap and water and a cool compress.
If you’re bitten by any snake, remove constrictive items, immobilize the bitten extremity, stay calm and get to the nearest hospital emergency department. Anyone who is bitten by a snake should make sure they are up-to-date on their tetanus shot.
DTaP vaccines for children and Tdap vaccines for adults include immunity against tetanus and are available at Monongalia County Health Department. It is recommended that Tdap vaccines be updated every 10 years for adults.
According to the WVPC, household plants have become one of the leading causes of poisoning via ingestion in children. It is important to be familiar with plants in your household, and if you don’t know what kind of plants you have, have a gardening expert help or research them on the Internet.
Any plant can cause unexpected reactions in anyone and it is best to call the WVPC if you believe a plant has been ingested. WVPC’s website contains a list of toxic and non-toxic plants. Don’t assume that because animals eat a plant that it isn’t poisonous.
For more information about how to poison-proof your home or learn more about potential poisons, visit www.wvpoisoncenter.org or call 304-347-1379. To get a DTaP or Tdap vaccine, called MCHD Clinical Services at 304-598-5119 for an appointment.
Mary Wade Burnside is the public information officer at Monongalia County Health Department.