New nationwide hotline serves as resource for poison emergencies and safety information
The outdoor recreation season in the Northwest means increased exposure to poisonous hazards for both adults and children. Poison centers nationwide take more than 6,600 calls a day during the height of summer season, a thousand more a day than in January.
"Summer fun and outdoor sun can cause us to relax our guard and forget to be prepared," said Tonya Drayden, R.N., M.S.N., C.S.P.I., education coordinator at the Oregon Poison Center at OHSU. "Whether you are traveling to the beach, the mountains, sunning in the desert regions or just right in your backyard, remember to stay safe and take care."
Here are some of the most common summer poison hazards:
Decreased supervision of children
When they're out of school, children may roam freely around the house and yard with minimal supervision. Make sure all toxic substances, such as charcoal lighter fluid and paint thinner, are out of their reach and that medications are stored securely in a locked area. If you are going on a family vacation, be sure to store any medications in a lockable suitcase or other carrier.
Poison hazards from plants are of particular concern, not just in the Northwest's lush forests but also in backyards. Parents should talk with their children about which plants are edible and which are not. Master gardeners at local garden centers can often help identify the plants in and around your house. Call the poison center with your plant list, and staff can verify whether the plant is poisonous. And remember, all mushrooms are considered poisonous unless positively identified by a trained mushroom expert. If someone has eaten a wild mushroom, call the poison center for instructions.
Bites and stings
Many insect populations are at their peak during the summer. To decrease your chance of being bitten or stung, avoid using perfumes, scented lotions and scented cosmetics, and avoid wearing brightly colored or patterned clothing. Also avoid going barefoot, especially through fields of vegetation. If someone does get bitten or stung, watch for signs of an allergic reaction such as a sore throat or hives. If the victim experiences any difficulty breathing, call 911 immediately.
If you are planning trips to a remote area such as southeastern Oregon, be prepared with a first aid kit. Snakebite kits are recommended if you are more than two hours from any health care facility or emergency response team.
Pesticides, insect repellents
The pesticides used to repel and kill insects can be hazards in themselves. Read the label before you buy. Choose insect repellents that are safe for children, and apply them as directed. Never let children apply insect repellent unsupervised, and store these substances out of children's reach.
Warm temperatures combined with improper food preparation or storage can lead to food poisoning. Symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. If someone is ill and you are unsure of what to do, call the poison center for help.
No question is too small
The Oregon Poison Center recommends people post the toll-free poison center number by their telephones. The new nationwide number is 1-800-222-1222. No matter where you are calling from in the United States, you will be automatically routed to your closest regional poison control center. Trained poison specialists are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
To take a poison prevention summer safety quiz, go to http://www.1-800-222-1222.info.