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Poison Centers prevent thousands of unnecessary trips to the doctor each year

Toxicology experts at the Oregon Poison Center at OHSU help the majority of callers handle exposures to toxic substances at home

Thanks to the expert guidance of the nation’s 57 poison centers, more than 75 percent of all poison exposure cases are treated at home, according to the American Association of Poison Control Center (AAPC), preventing tens of thousands of trips to a health care facility and saving millions in health care costs each year.

Last year the Oregon Poison Center at OHSU alone fielded more than 57,000 calls about potential poisonings; nearly 43,000 of those cases were resolved without a trip to the doctor’s office or the Emergency Room.

This week, national Poison Prevention Week, the Oregon Poison Center at Oregon Health & Science University would like to remind families and health care professionals that highly trained medical toxicologists are available 24 hours a day, free of charge when a friend or loved one has been exposed to a toxic substance, or when the public, doctors and nurses have questions about potential poisonings.

“The public and the medial profession rely on us for expert advice on what to do for a variety of encounters with potentially harmful substances, from a child swallowing too much toothpaste to an adult overdosing on pain medication to an employee exposed to toxic chemicals,” said Tonya Drayden, R.N., M.S.N, C.S.P.I., public education coordinator for the Oregon Poison Center at OHSU. “We play a key role in poison prevention, helping to identify trends that pose a potential public health risk. Most recently, poisons centers nationwide were responsible for helping to raise awareness about the harmful effects of a new stimulant similar to methamphetamines being disguised and sold at many convenience stores as common ‘bath salts."

Approximately 90 percent of all poisonings — 4.2 million calls nationwide in 2010 — occur at home, and while more than 50 percent of poison exposures involve children younger than 6, the majority of fatal poisonings occur among adults. On average, U.S. poison centers received one call concerning a suspected or actual human poison exposure every 12.7 seconds (2009).

Top Three Oregon Poison Center at OHSU Poison Exposures 2010

Top three poisonings for children:

  • Cosmetics, personal care products
  • Pain relievers
  • Household cleaners

Top three poisonings for teens:

  • Pain relievers
  • Cold and cough medications
  • Sedatives or Stimulants

Top three poisonings for adults:

  • Pain relievers
  • Sedatives, hypnotics, antipsychotic drugs
  • Antidepressants
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