In the final Health Matters episode of Season Four, Brenda Foley, MD, Assistant Medical Director of the Doylestown Hospital Emergency Department, shares information and guidance about common types of poison exposures, what to do if someone is exposed to a poison and how to prevent poisonings in the home.
Poison exposure is a broad topic, including everything from substances that are inhaled to those that are swallowed; toxic substances on the skin or in the eyes; tick and insect bites, and even food poisoning.
In this episode of Health Matters with Doylestown Health, Dr. Foley provides background on poison exposures in general. In 2016, there were more than 2 million calls to the Poison Control Center. When it comes to poisonings, the greatest amount occurs with children ages 1- to 2-years-old. Among those, the most common items to cause poisonings are personal care products, followed by cleaning products, with medications making up the third most common exposure.
With adults, inappropriate exposures to pain medications are the most common poison-related reason to come to the Emergency Department. In addition, poisonings from medications include sedatives, sleep aides, antidepressants and cardiovascular medicines.
Dr. Foley emphasizes the importance of calling Poison Control (800-222-1222) right away to receive guidance if someone has ingested a poisonous substance. Don't wait until the person develops symptoms before contacting Poison Control.
In this episode, Dr. Foley touches upon the basics for treating poison exposures. For the skin, it is important to remove any clothing that has the toxic substance on it, followed by washing the affected area under water for at least 15 minutes. With eye exposures, Dr. Foley talks about the importance of flushing the open eye with running water for 15 minutes.
When a person swallowed a poisonous substance in the past, people used to try and induce vomiting as a method of treatment. That has changed. Now, the recommendation is reversed – do not induce vomiting, says Dr. Foley.
In order to prevent poisonings, Dr. Foley discusses how to keep your home safe. This is very important, since about 90 percent of poisonings happen in the home. She offers tips to keep medications away from children at home and when traveling. If a child too young to talk does ingest something toxic, Dr. Foley talks about finding clues about what the substance was and how much the child took. Emergency medical personnel that arrive after calling 911 are trained to find these clues.
When laundry detergent pods first came out, it was young children who were reportedly ingesting them, mistaking them for candy. Now, there's an internet challenge involving laundry pods and teenagers (known as the Tide Pod Challenge). Dr. Foley explains that eating concentrated laundry detergent can cause aspiration, or drawing of liquid or particles into the lungs, causing trouble breathing and even respiratory arrest. The substance can also cause burns to the GI tract, as well as nausea and vomiting. It is important for teens to realize that just because something is seen on social media or the internet, it doesn't mean it's safe. In fact, things like the laundry detergent challenge can prove extremely dangerous.
Finally, this Health Matters episode also covers other types of exposures, including tick bites and food poisoning.