July 21, 2008

Palmetto Poison Center Says Children Often Victims of Accidental Poisoning

By Jamie Durant, Florence Morning News, S.C.

Jul. 21--More than 50 percent of calls made to the Palmetto Poison Center at the University of South Carolina in 2007 were for children younger than 6, according to the center's annual report.

The report, which was released earlier this month, also showed people older than 21 made up 32 percent of calls received in 2007 and children between 6 and 21 accounted for the remaining 13 percent.

Jill Michels, director of the center, said the annual report is one way for people living in the area to see concrete results of the service the center provides on a daily basis.

"We're trained health care professionals who can help out in a poison emergency," she said.

Michels said the calls for assistance range from accidental or intentional ingestions of poisons to drug reactions and occupational or biochemical exposures.

"Most of our calls involve pesticides or medications to cleaning substances," she said. "A lot of time we can manage those at home with minor first aid."

Michels said that when people call the poison center, it often can save them a trip to the emergency room.

"If we do think there is going to be some kind of health problem, we refer those patients to their doctor's office or emergency departments," she said.

The report showed the most common calls received in 2007 were for exposure to such analgesics as Tylenol, ibuprofen and other over-the-counter pain relievers.

Michels said these types of poisonings can be extremely common in young children because of their desire to be like their parents.

"Do not take medications in front of toddlers," she said, "because they want to be like their parents and if (their parents) take (the medicine), they will want to take it, too."

Erin Segars Faile, community health education coordinator for McLeod Health and Safe Kids Florence, said there are several ways parents can help keep their children safe from accidental poisoning.

"The home is one of the most concerning places for accidental poisoning of children," she said. "In the home, make sure to lock up poisons. It is best if they are out of sight and reach of children."

Faile said some of the items to lock up include makeup, medicines, plants, cleaning products, pesticides, art supplies and alcohol.

"Parents should make sure to purchase child-resistant packages whenever possible," she said. "When disposing of medications, make sure to flush them down the toilet instead of placing them in the trash cans."

Faile said one thing parents always should have handy is the number for a poison control hotline.

To contact the Palmetto Poison Center, call (800) 222-1222.


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