April 6-12 is National Public Health Week, and poisoning remains a critical public health concern for our nation. As a matter of fact, poisoning is the #1 cause of injury-related death in the United States. It’s true- more people die of poisoning every year than either gun or car-related injuries. The vast majority of these poisoning deaths are caused by drugs, a category which includes both over-the-counter and prescription medications, plus illicit or “street” drugs.
The U.S. government recognizes poison prevention as an effort critical to the nation’s health, designating the third week of March each year as National Poison Prevention Week, and including poison prevention as an explicit Healthy People objective.
The most important tool we have to help combat poisoning in this country is the national Poison Help phone number, 1 (800) 222-1222. Clinical experts like nurses, pharmacists, and physicians who are specially trained and certified in toxicology answer the phone from the nation’s 55 poison centers to help people who have poison-related questions, concerns, or emergencies. Best of all, both members of the public and health care practitioners alike can use this invaluable resource any time around the clock, every day of the year, at zero cost to the caller or the patient. Not only do poison centers provide life-saving treatment advice, they provide poison prevention education as well. Finally, the American Association of Poison Control Centers manages the National Poison Data System, the only near real-time poison surveillance database available in the U.S.
If you only do one thing in observance of National Public Health Week, save Poison Help as a contact in your phone. You never know when you might need this critical public health resource.
Krista Osterthaler, MPH
National Public Awareness and Outreach Manager
American Association of Poison Control Centers