Every 15 seconds someone in the United States will be a victim of poisoning.

All age groups are affected. Peak poisoning frequency occurs in 1- and 2-year-olds, but on average, cases involving teens and adults are more serious. In children younger than 13, more victims are male, but among teens and adults, more are female. For all ages, there were 640 poison exposures reported per 100,000 population. For people 50 or older, 250 exposures were reported per 100,00 population.

Cosmetics and personal care products head the list of the most common products involved in pediatric exposures. Cleaning substances and pain medications follow. Pain medications lead the list of the most common substances implicated in adult poison exposures and are usually unintentional. Sedatives and sleeping medications, antidepressants and cardiovascular medications follow, and these exposures are often intentional.

Nearly a million people die worldwide each year as a result of suicide. Chemicals account for a significant number of these deaths. Deliberate ingestion of pesticides causes 370,000 deaths each year. On average, every day over 300 victims ages 0 to 19 are treated in U.S. emergency departments, and two children die as a result of being poisoned.

Possible poisons include:

Cosmetics and personal care products.

Cleaning substances.


Foreign bodies such as toys.

Topical preparations.




Dietary supplements, herbals, homeopathic substances.


Cardiovascular drugs.


Warning signs of poisoning

Stomach pain.

Retching or vomiting.


Delirium and convulsions.

Burns around the mouth from corrosive poison, or pain in the mouth, throat or stomach.

Difficulty breathing.


Some more issues you need to be aware of:

Some poisons enlarge the pupils, while others shrink them.

Some result in excessive drooling, while others dry the mouth and skin.

Some speed the heart, while others slow the heart.

Some increase the breathing rate, while others slow it.

Some cause pain, while others are painless.

Some cause hyperactivity, while others cause drowsiness. Confusion is often seen with these symptoms.

What you should do

Call 911, then call the U.S. National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 if you have questions about possible poisoning. You can also go directly to your hospital’s emergency department. Do not wait for symptoms to develop. Call the poison control center for advice.

If the victim is conscious, try to find out what they have ingested. Keep in mind your victim could become unconscious at anytime.

Look around for any containers or remains of a poisonous plant that may have caused the event.

Call your local poison control center. Give the operator as much information as possible — age, the poison that may have caused the event, how much was ingested and the victim’s symptoms.

If the victim is conscious, you may be told to give the victim one of two things — either milk or water to dilute the poison, or something to induce vomiting.

If the victim is unconscious, place them in a recovery position on their side.

If the victim stops breathing, begin CPR compressions.

When help arrives, provide as much information you can.

Poison on the skin: Remove any contaminated clothing using gloves. Rinse the skin for 15 to 20 minutes in a shower or with a hose.

Poison in the eye: Gently flush the eye with cool or lukewarm water for at least 15 minutes or until help arrives.

Inhaled poison: Get the person into fresh air as soon as possible.

When to induce vomiting

Don’t induce vomiting if the victim has ingested:

Dishwashing or clothing detergent.

Gasoline or kerosene.


Oven cleaner.

Oil-based paints.

Furniture polish.

Cleaning solutions.


You can induce vomiting if the victim has ingested:

Plant food.

Aspirin and some other medications.


Fingernail polish remover.

Rat poison.

Some households have “Syrup of Ipecac,” a drug used to induce vomiting. You should not use Syrup of Ipecac if the victim has swallowed alkalis such as dishwashing detergents and cleaning solutions or petroleum products such as furniture polish, kerosene, gasoline or oil-based paints.

Also, you should not use Syrup of Ipecac if the victim:

Is over five months pregnant.

Has a history of heart disease.

Is under 12 months of age or over 65.

Is drunk or may choke on or inhale their vomit.

How to prevent a poisoning

Poisons can get into the body in a number of ways — from drinking, eating or smelling, through your skin or through your eyes.

Do a walk-around of your house to find any hazardous situations that you can correct. If you find substances that need to be removed, please remove them in a safe manner.

Keep all cleaning supplies out of reach of children. Do the same with medications, even over-the-counter medications, and with alcoholic beverages.

Keep kids away from houseplants and plants around your yard. Sometimes they can be poisonous. You can put plants out of reach or buy only plants that are nonpoisonous. A few examples of toxic houseplants include rhododendron, English ivy, lily of the valley and holiday plants such as holly and mistletoe.

To avoid food poisoning, make sure you keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Don’t leave food out for more than two hours, and for only one hour if the temperature is 90 degrees or above. If you use a cooler, keep the top closed so your food will stay cold. Cook beef and pork to 145 degrees, ground meats to 160 degrees and poultry to 165 degrees. Keep hot foods over 140 degrees.

No place will be 100 percent risk-free. Just do your best to reduce your risk.

If you have a fitness question or concern, write to “Tips to be Fit,” PO Box 53443, Philadelphia, PA 19105 or send an email to tipstobefit@gmail.com. Past articles can be found at www.phillytrib.com by searching “Tips to be Fit.”

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