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National Poison Prevention Week: Prepare, Prevent and Protect

(KFYR)
Published: Mar. 22, 2021 at 2:09 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Press Release) – Experts at the Alabama Poison Information Center (APIC) handled more than 105,000 incoming and follow-up phone calls in 2020, offering free and confidential poison information and treatment recommendations to the public and health care providers 24 hours a day.

More than 90 percent of poisonings happen in the home, and as National Poison Prevention Week (March 21-27, 2021) begins, the poison prevention experts at APIC have advice for people of all ages.

“Our message about poisonings is simple: prepare, prevent and protect,” said Ann Slattery, director, Alabama Poison Information Center at Children’s of Alabama. “When you’re concerned about a potential poisoning, skip the overwhelming internet search, and call us right away. We are here to help alleviate your fears. When seconds count, our experts are equipped to answer poisoning emergency questions that could save you a trip to a doctor’s office or the hospital.”

Calls to APIC are answered by nationally certified, specially trained toxicology experts, including nurses and pharmacists. APIC experts were able to monitor more than 85 percent of poison exposure calls at home in 2020, a year when many hospitals were often at capacity with COVID-19 patients. Questions related to household cleaning products – including hand sanitizers and other disinfectants used to reduce the spread of COVID-19 – were 26 percent higher hazards from March 2020-May 2020 than the same period during the previous year, a direct link to the beginning of the pandemic.

“The top pediatric exposure type in Alabama is household cleaning substances and has been for nearly a decade. In 2020, that was true for calls among all age groups,” Slattery said. Other frequent types of pediatric exposures include cosmetics, medications, vitamins and choking hazards like button/disc batteries.

While the majority of calls to APIC are related to children, about 36 percent of the calls concern adults. These calls are often related to medication errors – doubling up on doses or mistaking their spouse’s medications for their own,” Slattery said.

APIC is a fully accredited poison center by the American Association of Poison Control Centers and serves the entire state of Alabama as the only accredited statewide center as designated by the Alabama Department of Public Health. The center has been housed at Children’s of Alabama since 1958.

The center’s 2020 annual report is available online.

APIC experts share these tips to decrease the risk of poison exposures.

  • Program the APIC number, 1-800-222-1222, in your cell phone and post it in an easy-to-see location for babysitters or other caregivers in your home.
  • Keep all medicines and household cleaning products locked up and out of reach.
  • Avoid taking medicine in front of young children. They like to do what adults do.
  • Choose child resistant containers that are hard for children to open. Replace caps tightly after use.  Child resistant does not mean child-proof.
  • Call medicine by its proper name. Never call medicine candy.
  • Download APIC’s free app, Poison Perils of Alabama, to identify potentially dangerous plants, snakes, insects and common household items.
  • When in doubt, check it out. Calls to the Alabama Poison Information Center are always free and confidential.