7 surprising poisons

What do button batteries, medications and cleaning products have in common? They’re three of the items on the list of seven surprising poisons provided by the Kentucky Poison Control Center of Norton Children’s Hospital to raise awareness.

“Our No. 1 goal is to educate the public about potential poison hazards in and around their home,” said Ashley Webb, board-certified toxicologist and director of the Kentucky Poison Control Center. “We want them to know that if a child or adult is exposed to a poison, the poison control center should be called as soon as possible.”

On average, the poison control center’s hotline at (800) 222-1222 receives a call every 10 minutes, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year — more than 50,000 calls annually — from all of Kentucky’s 120 counties. Three of every four patients from those calls are successfully managed safely and inexpensively at home, reducing unnecessary emergency room visits and/or shortening hospital stays.

Everyone is encouraged to program (800) 222-1222 into their mobile phones during National Poison Prevention Week. This number works throughout the country and will automatically direct callers to the nearest poison control center. Poison control center services are provided at no direct charge to the public.

Seven surprising poisons
  • Magnets and batteries: Button or disc batteries can cause severe burns in the esophagus if swallowed. Swallowing a single magnet can be a choking hazard, but if more than one magnet is swallowed or a magnet is swallowed with a piece of metal, it can cause serious and even fatal consequences if the two make contact while in different parts of the bowel.
  • Your own medication: Even medication you take on a regular basis can be harmful if taken in the wrong amount or at the wrong time. Be sure to follow the dosing instructions on the medication packaging and keep all medication out of reach of children.
  • Cleaning products: Many products are brightly colored and attractive to children, therefore they should be stored up and out of reach. Adults should use caution when mixing cleaning products, as contact with the eyes can cause simple irritation to damaging abrasions to the surface of the eye, to blindness. If swallowed, many of these products can cause symptoms that may be severe depending on the product. The poison control center specialists can help you decide on the best course of action if exposed.
  • Furnace/fireplace: Malfunctioning furnaces and fireplaces can produce carbon monoxide, a potentially lethal gas. It is colorless and odorless — a truly silent killer.  Make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home.
  • Caffeine: Consuming excessive caffeine through energy drinks or supplements can lead to toxic levels. Symptoms of caffeine overdose range from vomiting and rapid heartbeat to disorientation, seizures and heart arrhythmias that could be fatal.
  • Tobacco and nicotine: All tobacco and nicotine products are harmful if swallowed, such as when a child decides to eat a cigarette butt (it happens!). But many nicotine products, including tobacco leaves themselves, are harmful if they come into contact with the skin. Nicotine from an e-cigarette cartridge or refill bottle can be absorbed through the skin and enter the bloodstream. High levels of nicotine can be fatal.
  • Natural/homemade products: Cleaning and personal care products labeled as “all natural” or made at home can still be harmful if swallowed. The products and any ingredients used to make them should be stored up and out of reach of children. They may sound safe, but products such as tea tree oil can make you ill and are poisonous to pets.
Visit KYPoisonControl.com, the website of the Kentucky Poison Control Center of Norton Children’s Hospital, to learn more about how to prevent poisoning.


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