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Household poisoning is viewed as a global crisis. The elderly in modern Sri Lanka get hospitalized mostly by poisoning themselves. The young generation experiences poisoning due to individuals being unable to deal with life’s pressing issues. According to the records that reveal the number of hospitalizations due to poisoning, the highest number of such cases involves children who mistakenly poison themselves.

The common poisons largely contributing to household poisoning are categorized into three basic groups.

  1. Chemicals (Weed killers and other chemicals)
  2. Medicine
  3. Types of trees in the natural environment ( Trees, micro organisms and the fungi inhabited poisons.)

The weedkillers

Parents and caretakers can simply save their children from poisoning accidents by carefully storing and locking poisonous materials and keeping such products away from children. According to studies done regarding this matter, it was revealed that weedkillers are stored insecurely in nearly half of the houses where there are children below age 5.

Tips for prevention 

  1. Carefully read the label on the weedkiller bottle. Usually the label includes descriptive information regarding usage, and what steps are to be taken to avoid poisoning accidents. Mixing, using and storing of weedkillers should be strictly done according to the instructions specified on the bottle.
  2. Keep the lids of containers or bottles tightly closed while not in use.
  3. Try to use the packeted products that are associated with a hard – to – open method.
  4. Never change the original container used for storing those chemicals. If someone tends to use the chemical container-contamminated unknowingly, it is highly possible that the chemicals would mix with food or drinks.
  5. Never store the weedkillers with food and always store them separately
  6. While using/ spraying weedkillers in or outside the house, keep children, pets and their toys away. Follow the instructions on the label and let children enter the area only after the effects of chemicals have subsided.

Other chemicals

Kerosene, various types of batteries (remote controls, mobile phones and numerous other batteries of electric devices), household cleaners (tile cleaners, grout cleaners, toilet cleaners etc.) liquid soaps and detergents, fabric softeners, air fresheners, body lotions, nail polish removing chemicals, and shampoos must be stored safely, out of the reach of children.

Medicinal poison 

  1. Frequently used medicines that aren’t usually prescribed by the doctor such as simple pain killers, syrups for cough and influenza, antihistamines and vitamines must be stored safely.
  2.  Keep a reserved place to store medicines.
  3. Do not keep tablets and syrups on the tables, in the kitchen or at easily- accessible places to children.
  4. Keep an eye on the elderly, whether they are taking their medicines properly and whether they have the ability to recognize the differences between tablet.
  5. It is much safer if the medicine-taking routines of elders is supervised. Medicine containers must be labelled with the name and intake time and the containers can be filled for a week for the convenience and safety of the elderly.

Paracetamol complications are another common issue. Children are given paracetamol several times during a day. This drug must be administered according to the weight of the child, as prescribed in the label or according to the doctor’s prescription. Even though Paracetamol should be given once every six hours, if fever surfaces again before the end of the six-hour duration, another dose could be given after four hours after the first dose. Then the next dose should be given after eight hours. But these pain killers are not recommended for more than four dosages a day.

Poisonous trees and seeds 

Get to know the poisonous trees in your garden or area and keep them out of reach of children. Advise the children not to eat unfamiliar seeds, fruits and leaves. The Yellow oleander plant, best known as Kaneru is a harmful poisonous plant. This plant commonly grows in the gardens in most provinces. Every part of this tree contains highly poisonous substances. Therefore, it is safer not to grow this plant in the garden if there are children at home.

Safety measurements 

The most important step will be to follow the medical instructions immediately. Meanwhile read the product label and do accordingly. Do not try to vomit without the recommendation of a qualified doctor during a case of poisoning. Because some chemicals can destroy the mucous membrane of mouth and esophagus. And the vomiting can lead the food or the poison to enter the lungs. The chemicals entering the body this way can cause respiratory problems as well as infections.

If a poisoned person vomits, clean his respiratory tract immediately. Cover your fingers with a piece of cloth before putting the hand into patient’s mouth or throat. If the person is unconscious turn him to his left and tilt his head a little up, keep the neck in a relaxed position and prevent the chemical from entering his lungs. Take him to a hospital ASAP.

  • If the patient is recognized to have convulsion, keep him lying on the floor to save him from accidents or falling
  • Relax or remove the tight clothing, especially around the neck.
  • nKeep him aligned a little to the left or right for this position can save his lungs from being contaminated with chemicals.
  • Be close to the person and be an attentive caretaker, until the patient recovers.
  • Remove clothes that have been stained by the poison. Wash the patient’s skin thoroughly with flowing water and soap.
  • If the environment is contaminated with any poisonous gas, keep the windows and doors open until the poisonous gases escape.
  • If you have to enter a place contaminated with poisonous gases to save someone stuck there, breathe deeply several times and keep the air inside before going in. Keep a wet cloth on your mouth and nose. Do not use lighters or match sticks, as some gases are highly inflammable. Check the heartbeat and the airway of the patient, soon afterwards.
  • Wash eyes using clear and lukewarm water following an accident caused by chemicals. The saline solution is ideal for washing. It is advisable to reach the doctor as soon as possible in case of an accident.

Adopted from the discussion with,

Dr. Pradeepa Jayawardana, Senior Lecturer of Pharmacology, Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Sri Jayewardnepura, by Daily Mirror.

Visit Article in Daily Mirror : www.dailymirror.lk/article/Preventing-poisoning-accidents-at-home

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