Accidental and unintentional poisonings occur in homes every day.
In 2015 alone, the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) reported that 2.2 million people came into contact with such substances, with calls made to a poison center every 11 seconds.
“Cleaning supplies, personal care products, prescription and over-the-counter medications, and the vast majority of products stored in garages are poisonous,” said Jeffrey Murawsky, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center.
Because these products are so common, it’s nearly impossible for most people to rid their home of poisonous substances, but there are ways to limit the risks.
Types of common household poison
Medications, both prescription and over-the-counter drugs, are the cause of most poisonings. These include painkillers, sedatives, antidepressants, antihistamines, cardiovascular drugs, stimulants and vitamins/supplements.
Cleaning substances are a known cause of dangerous poisonings. These include bleach, toilet and drain cleaner, polishes and waxes, all-purpose cleaners, dish soap and laundry detergent. Laundry detergent pods can be especially dangerous for children. Many are brightly colored, small enough to be swallowed and contain a concentrated amount of product.
Cosmetics and personal care products, including shampoo, topical solutions, lotions and creams, makeup and nail polish/nail polish removers are common offenders.
Pesticides, rodenticides, plants, wild mushrooms, animal/insect bites and stings and carbon monoxide are also common poisons.
What about lead poisoning?
While lead poisoning is becoming less common in Western states — bans on lead in paint and most gasolines have helped to greatly reduce the instances of exposure — a new source of lead poisoning is on the rise: indoor shooting ranges.
“Lead-based bullets and primer can shed toxins which can be exacerbated by poor or inadequate ventilation. The toxic dust settles on skin, hair, clothing and car interiors, where it can be carried home and exposed to family members,” Murawsky said.
Steps to keeping you and your loved ones safe
Children under age 6 are at the highest risk for poisoning — this age group accounted for 47 percent of exposures in 2015.
If you have children in the home, especially little ones under age 6, it’s important to use the utmost care when storing and disposing of any poisonous product, according to Safe Kids Clark County.
“Ibuprofen, multivitamins, and diaper care and rash products are commonly ingested by toddlers and can be very harmful,” Murawsky said. He also warns that children find misplaced medication on nightstands, the floor or in purses, often in grandparents’ or other relatives’ homes.
Be sure to properly store any medication, personal/cosmetic products and any other poisonous substance out of a child’s reach and eyesight, and in sealed containers. Keep a close eye on children when in the homes of relatives and friends to avoid any swallowing hazards.
Also, take out the garbage immediately after throwing away anything that poses a poison hazard, such as cleaning wipes.
Always follow product instructions and dispose of all medication and products properly, as outlined by the manufacturer.
- Use any dosing devices that come with medication to avoid accidental overdoses, and never combine any medications without discussing it with your physician first.
- Put all medication away and out of sight. This includes vitamins, supplements, eye drops and similar products that may not seem immediately dangerous.
- When using aerosols, always do so in spaces with lots of ventilation, and wear mouth/eye covers when appropriate.
- Store cleaning products in their original containers and never combine them. Never mix cleaning products while using them. For instance, bleach- and ammonia-based products are both common, but when combined, they can create a toxic vapor.
- Write clear instructions for caregivers about medication for children or aging adults living at home.
- Be careful if you have a teen who is managing his or her own medicine — Murawsky noted that teens self-administering over-the-counter medicine is a common reason for emergency room visits.
Symptoms of a poisoning depend on the type of poison, and how it was consumed, but the most common symptoms include:
- Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
- Blurred vision
- Low blood pressure
- Rapid heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- Confusion or disorientation
If you think you or a loved one might be experiencing any of these, or other typical symptoms, after being exposed to a poisonous substance, call Poison Control immediately at 1-800-222-1222.