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News from Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and Hospital Foundation

Poisoning can happen when ingesting, touching, or inhaling toxic substances. It can be injurious and deadly. Poison Control centers across the country handle over two million poison exposure calls a year. Over 90% of poisonings occur in the home with over 80% of cases affecting children ages 1 to 4. Most poisoning peaks between 4 and 10 p.m. because dinnertime is busy and parents are more likely to be distracted.

Poisoning is often curable, but needs efficient and speedy treatment. Different poisons cause varying reactions. Carbon monoxide poisoning interferes with the blood’s ability to carry oxygen. Other substances such as bleach will burn and irritate the digestive process. Medicines are the leading cause of poisoning in children, followed by cleaning substances.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), poisonings cause approximately 1,940 people to go to an emergency room every day. Symptoms and signs of poisoning can mimic other conditions such as intoxication, seizures, strokes and insulin reactions. Signs include burning or redness around the mouth or lips, breath that smells like chemicals, vomiting, difficulty breathing, confusion or altered mental state, and drowsiness. If poison is suspected, seek emergency or medical treatment immediately.



If you suspect someone has been poisoned, look for clues such as scattered pills, an empty pill bottle, stains or odors on nearby objects, and missing items that may have been swallowed. If you find pills and are not sure what they are, look for identifiers such as letters and numbers imprinted on the pill. There are online sites such as WebPoisonControl that can help you identify a particular medication by entering the information on the pill into the website.

Follow these tips to keep your family safe. Make sure children don’t have access to peeling paint or chewable lead-based paint surfaces, read and follow label instructions for storing chemicals, pesticides and cleaning products and make sure you keep your home ventilated by turning on household fans and opening windows when using cleaners and chemicals.




Certain poisonings can be treated at home under the guidance of Poison Control, which will tell you how to stabilize the situation until medical care arrives or can be sought. In some situations, rinsing the skin and eyes for up to 20 minutes can provide relief. Unless instructed to do so, do not give syrup of ipecac in cases of swallowing a poisonous substance because it can cause seizures for those that swallowed chemicals that cause burns. It is also dangerous to some with medical conditions.

Nevada County poison statistics include 12,073 calls taken with 55% of those handled at home and 37% involving children under 6 years of age. If someone is exposed to poison, immediately call 911 or Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222. They will inquire about the victim’s condition, the name and ingredients of the consumed product, when it was consumed, the victim’s age and weight, your name and phone number.


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