So far this year, close to 200 Tooele County residents have been admitted to the emergency room at Mountain West Medical Center after ingesting harmful items.
Next week, from March 17 to 23, is National Poison Prevention Week. The week is dedicated to raise awareness about the harmful effects of poisoning and how to prevent it from occurring. This includes a small child who gets into something they shouldn’t or an adult who intentionally overdoses on pills.
Holli Anderson, emergency department director at MWMC, said poisoning is classified in a couple of different ways.
“With younger children, it is usually an unintentional ingestion that brings them in,” she said. “Most often they get into someone’s medication. The adult population is most often an intentional overdose.”
MWMC’s emergency room since Jan. 1 has seen 37 children, ages 0 to 17, for ingestions. Of those, three were ingestions of a chemical, 30 were ingestions of a known substance, and four were ingestions of an unknown substance, according to Anderson.
“In that same age group we’ve seen two unintentional overdoses of medication and 13 intentional overdoses of medication,” she said. “The most common age for children who come in for ingestion of a known substance is between 1 and 2 years of age. One-and-a-half years seems to be the most common, as they become more mobile and curious. The intentional overdoses in children are almost all teenagers, mostly later teens [ages] 15 to 17.”
Also since Jan. 1, the hospital’s emergency room has seen 45 adults with accidental overdoses, 88 adults with intentional overdoses and 17 adults with ingestion of a chemical, known substance or unknown substance, according to Anderson.
“With the adult population, the intentional overdoses are pretty spread out, mostly 20s to 40s [in age],” Anderson said. “The accidental overdoses are also spread out, but with more elderly patients than the intentional.”
Anderson said the most commonly ingested poisons in Tooele County are medications.
“Tylenol and Ibuprofen seem to show up a lot, probably because of easy access,” she said. “We see a lot of narcotic overuse, primarily with hydrocodone and oxycodone. People don’t realize how toxic Tylenol [acetaminophen] can be if not taken according to instructions. Many over-the-counter and prescription medications contain acetaminophen.”
When it comes to keeping children away from things that could poison them, Anderson said it’s important to store medications and household products out of childrens’ reach.
“Child resistant packaging helps, but should not be solely relied upon to keep children out of medications,” she said. “Store medication and household products away from food, and never store such items in containers that resemble or normally contain food or drinks.”
Anderson said it’s also important to always read labels and follow instructions, never refer to medications as “candy” when giving to children and never let household chemicals or medicine out of your sight while using them. In addition, she said every home should have a carbon monoxide alarm.
If a child does ingest a medication or household product, there are a couple of things parents should do right away, she said. If the child is in immediate danger, meaning they are having trouble breathing or are not breathing and are unconscious or lethargic, 911 should be called immediately. Otherwise, call the Utah Poison Control Center right away.
“[Poison Control] can advise parents of steps they need to take and if they advise parents to go to the emergency department, Poison Control will call us and give us a heads-up that they’re coming,” Anderson said. “Poison Control is a wonderful asset to parents and health care providers alike. We rely on them to advise us on what the best treatments are for any poison related conditions.”
Anderson suggested that parents of young children keep the poison control phone number close at hand.
“Program it into your cell phone, keep it by your house phone or on the fridge and make sure your baby-sitter knows where to find the number,” she said. “Poison Control even has information regarding pets.”
The Utah Poison Control Center is a 24-hour resource for poison information and education. Calling the center is free and private. The number is (800) 222-1222.