IL Poison Center Urges Families to Identify Household Toxins, Save Lives

National Poison Prevention Week is coming up, and the staff at the Illinois Poison Center is getting the word out to be aware of toxic substances around the house. The nonprofit organization provides both assistance and education on what to do if you suspect poisoning, and courses on identifying poisonous substances. Last year, the center handled nearly 70,000 involving potentially harmful substances, ranging from minor to severe. Dr. Michael Wahl, medical director for the center, said almost 40% of those cases involved children age five or younger.

“This is kind of the hallmark week for us to get the word out of the importance of poison prevention planning in the house, in the home, to prevent those unintentional ingestions or exposures to potentially harmful products,” Wahl explained.

Wahl pointed out the Illinois center was one of the first of its kind in the nation and has been a resource for almost 70 years. It is staffed 24 hours, seven days a week, every day of the year, and can be reached at 800-222-1222. Wahl noted the center deals with many substances, including drug overdoses, medication errors or reactions, plants, household chemicals, automotive products, insect stings and bites, lead, carbon monoxide and more. He added the most dangerous time for children can be a visit from a grandparent.

“We recommend keeping the medications in their original containers and childproof caps,” Wahl emphasized. “But grandparents will often keep their medications in pill minders. Those are not in child-resistant caps, and it is not uncommon that kids will get into them.”

The center provides helpful information and guides, including stickers and refrigerator magnets with its toll-free number, at no charge. But Wahl stressed for those who need immediate help, there are experts standing by.

“Our line is staffed by nurses and pharmacists, so it is medical professionals — they’re not volunteers — and they are specially trained in medical toxicology, to really answer and help with recommendations on a wide variety of potentially harmful exposures,” Wahl emphasized.

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