Utah above national average for child poisonings

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Gov. Gary Herbert signed a proclamation declaring this week as Poison Prevention Week in Utah.

Poisons can be a big problem in the home -- and for kids.

U.S. poison centers received one call concerning human poison exposure every 12.7 seconds. Here in Utah, the Poison Control Center receives tens of thousands of calls every year.

Poison Emergencies, Questions and Prevention Information Call 1-800-222-1222.

Marty Malheiro of the Utah Poison Control Center said, "We get more than enough calls a year to fill Rice-Eccles stadium. We get 56,000 calls a year in Utah. That's pretty significant."

Malheiro says most of those calls involve kids.

"In Utah we do have a higher percentage of children poisonings: 60 percent of our calls are for children under 6. Nationally the rate is 50 percent," he said.

And in Utah, 94 percent of those poisonings happen in the home.

The purpose of Poison Prevention Week is to raise awareness for parents and child caregivers about products in the home that seem harmless, but to a child can be dangerous.

By the numbers
Poison Control
  • U.S. poison centers answered more than 4.3 million calls in 2008, including nearly 2.5 million calls about human exposures to poison- up from 4.2 million calls in 2007.
  • On average, U.S. poison centers received one call concerning a suspected or actual human poison exposure every 12.7 seconds.
In Utah
  • Every year, more than 71,000 children end up in emergency room from unintentional medicine overdoses. Over 56,000 calls are received annually by the Utah Poison Control Center.
  • More than 60% of the exposures involve children less than six years of age.
  • In 2009, 94% of all poisonings occurred in the home.

According to Malheiro, "Toothpaste is the most common in kids category."

That's right: when mom or dad looks away, the child can grab the toothpaste and start sucking on it.

Malheiro urges that parents never hesitate to call if they believe their child has gotten into any common household item, because the labeling can confuse the child.

"A juice drink has cherries on the label, and [medicine] has cherries on the label," he said. "So for a small child when they see [that] product, to them it looks like a drink that might be in their fridge."

And it's not only kids who are at risk. The call center receives calls about adults talking over-the-counter and prescription medications incorrectly, too.

"If you are using a product, follow the label and follow instructions," Malheiro said.

Another good tip for parents is to program the Poison Control phone number right into your phone.

E-mail: abutterfield@ksl.com

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