Every day in the United States, 87 people die as a result of unintentional poisoning, and another 2,277 are treated in emergency departments (ED).A poison is any substance, including medications, that is harmful to your body if too much is eaten, inhaled, injected, or absorbed through the skin. Any substance can be poisonous if too much is taken. Poisonings are either intentional or unintentional. This fact sheet provides information on the problem of unintentional poisoning in the United States. If the person taking or giving a substance did not mean to cause harm, then it is an unintentional poisoning. Unintentional poisoning includes the use of drugs or chemicals for nonmedical purposes in excessive amounts, such as an “overdose.” It also includes the excessive use of drugs or chemicals for non-recreational purposes, such as by a toddler.
In 2009, 31,758 (76 percent) of the 41,592 poisoning deaths in the United States were unintentional, and 3,349 (8 percent) were of undetermined intent.1 Unintentional poisoning death rates have been rising steadily since 1992.Unintentional poisoning was second only to motor vehicle crashes as a cause of unintentional injury death for all ages in 2009. Among people 25 to 64 years old, unintentional poisoning caused more deaths than motor vehicle crashes.
In 2010, unintentional poisoning caused about 831,295 emergency department (ED) visits.206,479 (25 percent) of these ED visits resulted in hospitalization or transfer to another facility.
In 2010, poison control centers reported receiving calls about 2.4 million human poison exposure cases.
Between 2004 and 2005, an estimated 71,000 children (<18 years of age) were seen in EDs each year because of medication poisonings (excluding abuse and recreational drug use). Over 80 percent were because an unsupervised child found and consumed medications.
Most Common Poisons
In 2009, 28,754 (91 percent) of all unintentional poisoning deaths were caused by drugs. The class of drugs known as prescription painkillers, which includes such drugs as methadone, hydrocodone, and oxycodone, was most commonly involved, followed by cocaine and heroin.
Among those treated in EDs for nonfatal poisonings involving non medical use of prescription or over-the-counter drugs in 2009, opioid pain medications and benzodiazepines (such as Valium) were involved most frequently. Non medical use includes misuse, abuse or otherwise not taking a drug as prescribed.
Among children, ED visits for medication poisonings (excluding misuse or abuse) are twice as common as poisonings from other household products (such as cleaning solutions and personal care products).
Important Checklist for Poison-Proofing Your Home
Keep all household poisons and medications
in their original packaging
Lock up all poisons and medications
and keep out of reach of children
Be as careful with non prescription medication as prescription medication
Do not refer to medicine as candy
or take them in front of children
Keep all purses and diaper bags away from children. Including friends. You never know what is in there, and kids like to play with them
When using any product that can harm a child, always take the child with you if you have to leave the room. Even answering the phone could potentially leave the product open for the child to play with. Most poisonings occur when the productsare in use
Return all household products and chemicals to their safe storage area immediately after use
Know what plants you have around the house.
Some can be hazardous or poisonous
Take the time to teach children about hazardous products. Kids are very curious and the more they know the less chance they will unintentionally get hurt by a product.
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