The Maryland Poison Center (MPC) urges families across the state and beyond to observe National Poison Prevention Week, March 20-26, by familiarizing themselves with the information and resources available at the center.
Everyone should program the poison center phone number, 1-800-222-1222, into their mobile phones. The number automatically connects callers to a local poison center when it is dialed anywhere in the U.S.
In addition, every household in Maryland should have the telephone number of the poison center posted on or near their home telephone so it is readily accessible should it be needed, says Angel Bivens, RPh, MBA, CSPI, public education coordinator for the MPC, which is part of the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy (SOP).
Last year 35,941 Marylanders called the Maryland Poison Center's 24-hour hotline to report human exposures to poisonous substances. Another 24,897 people called to obtain information about potential poison hazards in their homes and external environments and 1,981 called about animal exposures to poisonous substances. These statistics convey a strong message: Awareness is the key to preventing serious injury or even death from poisoning.
Data compiled in 2010 from calls made to the Maryland Poison Center show that children under the age of 6 years old are at the greatest risk of unintentional poisoning. In fact, approximately 48 percent of the human exposures reported to the Maryland Poison Center involved a child under the age of 6. Another 13 percent of human exposures are in the age group of 6-19 years, 7 percent are in seniors above the age of 60 with the remaining 32 percent in adults age 20-59 years.
Poison center services are truly for everyone. Poisons are not just the cleaners found under the sink that pose a danger to children. Medications, natural remedies, substances of abuse, environmental and biological toxins can pose danger to everyone.
"Poison Prevention Week provides us a great opportunity to educate people about how to avert dangerous situations," said Bruce Anderson, PharmD, DABAT, associate professor in the SOP and director of the MPC. "By simply requesting the desired information and keeping it handy, families can implement poison safety awareness into their everyday lives."
While the Maryland Poison Center experiences heavy phone traffic for children's cases, the resource is also helpful for adult and animal-related exposures. Analgesics like acetaminophen and ibuprofen (3,000 calls), sedatives (2,910 calls), antidepressants (1,455 calls), heart medicines (1,188), and alcohols (1,166 calls) were the top five reasons adults called for themselves in 2010.
Poison Prevention Week was annually designated the third week in March by President John F. Kennedy on Sept. 26, 1961. Since then it has been a catalyst for spreading the prevention message nationwide.
The Maryland Poison Center, a leader in providing poisoning and overdose care to Marylanders since 1972, is a service of the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. The center provides poisoning triage, treatment information, education and prevention services. For more information about the Maryland Poison Center, please call 1-800-222-1222 or visit the center website.