The Washoe County Health District held a series of community meetings recently to discuss what health care providers, public health workers and child care staff can do to help prevent poisonings. Reno Public Radio’s Noah Glick has more.
Shireen Banerji is with the Nevada Poison Center and was a presenter at the meetings. She says most calls to poison control centers affect young children.
“Over half of our calls, in general, for the Nevada Poison Center, are children five years and younger,” she says.
Banerji says that improper storage of poisons is the main culprit, but offers suggestions for parents.
“Number one thing is obviously keep things out of reach. So we suggest actually a lockbox that has a number combination lock,” she says. “Keep medicines in their original bottles, don’t start mixing them together. And not calling medicine candy is a big one. You want your child to take the medicine, but what happens later when your child finds the medicine and thinks, ‘Oh, it’s just candy’?”
Banerji says that painkillers, both over-the-counter varieties like Tylenol and narcotics like morphine, are the most common poisonings. But there is a new contaminant on the rise: e-cigarette refill cartridges.
“Our numbers have increased steadily from 2013 up until now,” she says. “But it is a problem, because they are attractively packaged, they smell really good, they have shapes and fruits and things which look like candy or which look desirable to a child.”
Banerji says that so far no deaths have been reported from e-cigarette exposure, but stresses the importance of poison control centers in being able to diagnose issues over the phone.
“For every dollar spent on poison control centers, you save $13 on health care costs. So not only can we optimize their outcomes, but we can save money as a bonus.”
The American Association of Poison Control Centers reports that across the country, these savings total more than $1.8 billion annually.
The poison center is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The hotline number is 1-800-222-1222.