Since 1962, the third full week of March has been celebrated by presidential decree as National Poison Prevention Week (NPPW), providing poison centers across the country — including the Maryland Poison Center (MPC) — an opportunity to raise awareness about the dangers of poisonings and highlight steps that everyone can take to prevent them.
This year, NPPW will be observed March 20-26. The theme is “Here for the Ages” as poison centers have been around for more than 60 years, and they support people in every decade of life.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), poisoning is the leading cause of unintentional injury death in the United States, with most of these deaths caused by drug and medication misuse and abuse.
The MPC — part of the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science (PPS) at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy — is a 24-hour telephone service that offers free, fast, and confidential expert advice about poisonings and overdoses. It has provided poisoning treatment advice, education, and prevention services to individuals living in Maryland since 1972 and is certified by the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) as a regional poison center. In 2022, it is celebrating 50 years of expert care.
“The MPC, along with the nation’s other 54 poison centers, is committed to safeguarding the health and well-being of every American through proactive poison prevention and free, confidential, and expert medical services,” says Bruce Anderson, PharmD, DABAT, FAACT, executive director of the MPC and professor in PPS. “The center is staffed 24/7 by pharmacists and nurses who are certified as specialists in poison information and uniquely trained to help individuals who have been exposed to a poison or have questions about a potential poisoning.”
Although children younger than 6 are involved in about one-third of the calls received by the MPC, teens, adults, and seniors also are at risk for poisoning. To help prevent poisonings in your home, follow these tips from the MPC:
- Program the poison center phone number in your cellphone. Your local poison center can be reached anywhere in the United States by dialing 1-800-222-1222. You also can text the word “poison” to 797979 to receive the poison center’s contact information. Save this contact and share it with your friends and family.
- Follow the Poison Safety Checklist to make sure all medicines, poisons, and harmful household products are stored out of the sight and reach of children.
- Read and follow directions on the label before using medicines and household products.
- Keep all household products and medicines in their original containers. Never put chemicals or cleaning products in empty food or drink containers.
- Always ask for medicine in child-resistant containers, but remember that these containers are not childproof. If given enough time, children often can open the safety caps.
- Put medicines away after each dose, even if they will be taken again in a few hours.
- Know the names of plants in and around your home, and remove poisonous ones from the house and yard.
- Have a carbon monoxide alarm in your home.
Individuals can participate in NPPW by following the Maryland Poison Center on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and its eAntidote blog. You also can subscribe to its e-newsletter, Poison Prevention Press.
Families living in Maryland who would like more information about poison prevention can request a poison safety packet for their home. This packet contains information about poison safety, Mr. Yuk stickers, telephone stickers, and a magnet that can help families prevent or prepare for poisoning emergencies.