The Times West Virginian

March 19, 2014

Knowing Poison Control number can save lives

Times West Virginian

— Poisonings are far more common than we realize.

And they are far more deadly, too.

In fact, drug-related poisonings cause 700,000 trips to the emergency room each year and cause 35,000 deaths per year.

Who is at risk? Everyone. This isn't just a case of a child climbing under the sink and eating a detergent or cleaning product or finding a pill on the floor and swallowing it. That does happen.

And while children under the age of 6 account for more than half of poisonings each year, more than 9 out of 10 deaths occur in people older than 20. The misuse of medicine, whether it's intentional or not, is the leading cause of poisoning deaths.

National Poison Prevention Week is observed this week. Perhaps one of the greatest prevention efforts we have is the ability to pick up the phone and being able to dial 1-800-222-1222.

Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, by dialing that number you will be immediately connected to a staff member of the West Virginia Poison Control Center. Those answering the calls include nurses, pharmacists and physicians with special training in the treatment of poisonings.

By dialing one simple number, poison control specialists can answer questions about: Accidental poisonings of children and adults, drug overdoses, bites and stings; reactions to drugs and chemicals; drug interactions; poisoning of animals; chronic lead poisoning; toxic or non-toxic plant information; and poisonings from drugs of abuse.

And while parents, guardians and caretakers of children under the age of of 6 are frequent callers to the West Virginia Poison Control Center, keep in mind that the center is also used by emergency officials and health-care providers, too, to get important information about diagnosing and treating poisoning.

Of course, an ounce of prevention is more valuable than a pound of cure, so just knowing about the risks in your home or workplace will help you in the event of an emergency. Also, keep important information about medicines used in your household, like dosages and who takes what and how often.

Also. post poison control's number on your refrigerator or bulletin board. Program 1-800-222-1222 into your cell phone under "Poison Control." Not having to take precious seconds to track down a number could literally save a life.