December 23, 2015

Tennessee Poison Center names its “top five” poisons of the year and offers safety tips

The leading cause of injury death in Tennessee is not motor vehicle crashes, gunshot wounds or drowning—it is poisoning.

And the main source of that poisoning is not the furniture polish or drain cleaner stored under the kitchen sink (dangerous as those are)—the main source of poisoning is analgesic drugs, according to Donna Seger, M.D., Tennessee Poison Center Medical Director.

“In the past year, more than 33,000 poison cases reported to the Tennessee Poison Center were for pharmaceutical substances—59 percent of our total cases,” she said.

“Opioid analgesic pain relievers are involved in a substantial proportion of drug poisoning deaths,” Seger said.

Opioid analgesics include natural and semisynthetic opioid analgesics such as hydrocodone, morphine and oxycodone, as well as other opioid analgesics such as fentanyl and methadone.

In order, the top five substances for poison exposure in Tennessee are:

1.       Analgesics

2.       Cosmetic/Personal Care Products

3.       Household cleaning products

4.       Sedative/hypnotics/antipsychotics

5.       Antihistamines


Using information from the National Vital Statistics System, which compiles deaths due to drug poisoning nationwide, Seger notes that in the past 15 years, the age-adjusted drug poisoning death rate has more than doubled, and that 81 percent of those deaths from drug poisoning were unintentional.

The Tennessee Poison Center offers these guidelines for avoiding poisoning by storing and using poisons safely:

Store Poisons Safely

  • Store all medicines away from household products and food.
  • Never put any medicine or chemical in a cup or soft drink bottle.
  • Keep medicine and household products in their original containers.
  • Use child-resistant packaging. But remember – nothing is childproof.
  • If you have a young child who is able to walk or crawl, keep household plants and products stored above floor level, not beneath the sink.

Use Poisons Safely

  • Read the label on all medicines and household products and heed warnings and cautions.
  • Are children in the home? Take the product or medicine with you to answer the door or the phone.
  • Lock up products and medicines after using them.
  • If it’s medicine, call it medicine, not candy.
  • Children learn by imitation. Take your medicines where children can’t watch.
  • Always turn on the light when giving medicines. Never take medicines in the dark.

If you suspect a poisoning, call Tennessee Poison Center for treatment advice about any kind of poison. The Poison Help toll-free number is 1-800-222-1222. (Save this number in your cell phone so you will be sure and have it if there is an emergency.)

Tennessee Poison Center, housed at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, is a member of the Tennessee State Department of Health Commissioner’s Council on Injury Prevention, a group of organizations throughout the state who collaborate to reduce injury deaths in Tennessee.