Oswego County Health Department Raises Poison Prevention Awareness

March 10, 2023

March is Poison Prevention Awareness Month and the Oswego County Health Department reminds residents to take preventative measures to keep themselves safe against potentially poisonous substances.  

Poison Prevention Awareness Month serves to educate the public on the dangers of poisoning while highlighting preventative and emergency resources. National Poison Prevention Week is also recognized this month, falling from Sunday, March 19 to Saturday, March 25 this year.

“Poisons come in many different forms and aren’t always obvious,” said Oswego County Public Health Director Vera Dunsmoor. “Poisonous items include medication, chemicals, cosmetics, household items, plants, pesticides and many others. It’s essential to store any potentially poisonous items in a secure place away from children and pets.”

According to Upstate New York Poison Center, some of the most common poisonings in 2022 concerned prescription medication and over-the-counter painkillers such as acetaminophens and ibuprofen.

Follow these steps to ensure medication safety:

  • Keep all medicine in its original packaging with the label attached.
  • Always read and follow instructions on the label for all medicines used.
  • Keep medicines locked away where children are unable to see or reach them. Consider purchasing a medication lock box for safe storage.
  • Keep medications out of sight of children.
  • Never share prescription medication. It can be poisonous if taken in the wrong way or amount.
  • When finished with a medicine, safely dispose of any leftover medication by bringing it to a medication drop box. Do not throw medicine in the trash or flush it down the toilet as it can contaminate the environment and the wildlife it supports.

The unintentional ingestion of cannabis edibles in children is another concern to be weary of. Cannabis products contain cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC impacts the brain by producing a “high” sensation.

There is a rising trend in poisonings from these items. In 2022, Upstate New York Poison Center responded to nearly 700 cases involving cannabis products, with the largest number of calls related to cannabis edibles – and most of those calls were for accidental ingestion by children aged 5 and under.

“Cannabis edibles often look like candy or other sweets, increasing the risk of accidental ingestion by children,” said Dunsmoor. “It is important to keep these products out of sight and reach of children, as they may experience concerning symptoms after ingesting THC, such as a change in heart rate, difficulty breathing, vomiting and more.”

All cannabis products should be stored in a medication lock box.

Household items such as cleaning supplies are also common causes of poisonings. Some of these products look very similar in color to other items that are safe to eat or drink, which can cause accidental poisoning.

Mixing certain cleaning products together also poses a hazard, as it could create a poisonous gas which may cause coughing or breathing problems.

Follow these safety tips while cleaning the home:

  • Keep all cleaning products out of sight and reach of children and pets.
  • Leave products in their original packaging with labels intact.
  • Do not mix cleaning products together.
  • Be mindful of natural or homemade products, as natural does not always mean safe.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is another risk to keep in mind year-round. Carbon monoxide is a potentially deadly gas that cannot be seen, smelled or tasted. Many home appliances can produce carbon monoxide, including furnaces, wood stoves, generators, ovens and kerosene heaters. Vehicles left running in an attached garage is another potential cause of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Take these steps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Have all heating systems, water heaters and any other gas, oil or coal burning appliances serviced by a professional every year.
  • Install a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector in the home and change the batteries each spring and fall when the clocks change. Some devices also serve as smoke detectors, but if you’re using separate devices, make sure to change the batteries in both.
  • Never burn things in a stove or fireplace that lacks ventilation.
  • Don’t use gas or charcoal-burning devices such as generators, charcoal grills or camp stoves inside of the home, basement or garage. When using a device outdoors, keep it away from windows.
  • Never run a vehicle inside a garage attached to the home, even if the door is left open.

Seek medical attention immediately if you experience nausea, dizziness or lightheadedness and carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected.

Lead is another cause of poisoning, especially in homes built before 1980. It is harmful to everyone, especially children, as it can negatively impact their growth, behavior and ability to learn. Lead in house paint is a significant source of lead poisoning in children, which resulted in in its ban from home use in 1978.

Other products that may contain lead include cosmetics, metal jewelry, incense, candle sticks and glazed pottery. Products imported from other countries may also contain lead, including spices, candy, medicine, ointments, pastes and toys.

Follow these steps to be safe from lead exposures:

  • Fix any peeling or chipping paint in the home and make sure renovations are done safely.
  • Wash children’s hands and face after playtime, before meals and before bedtime. Frequently wash any items that a child may put in their mouth, such as toys, bottles, stuffed animals and pacifiers. To minimize potential dust, mop floors regularly and use damp paper towels to clean.
  • Avoid tracking lead into the home by taking off shoes at the door and changing out of work clothes before going home. Wash any clothing that may have been exposed to lead separately and wash face, hands and uncovered skin before leaving work.
  • Be mindful of potential lead exposures in food and water. Old plumbing systems may contain lead, so run cold water from the tap for at least a minute before using, especially for infant formula or cooking.
  • Serve food containing calcium, iron and vitamin C to help reduce the effects of lead. These foods include milk, cheese, yogurt, beans, lean meat, peanut butter, oranges, grapefruits, tomatoes, green peppers and many others.

In the event of a suspected poisoning, call the National Capital Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222. For more information, visit the Upstate New York Poison Center at https://www.upstate.edu/poison.