AAPCC Celebrates National Public Health Week

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.2013 KO and NPPW posters

Krista Osterthaler, MPH

National Public Awareness and Outreach Manager

American Association of Poison Control Centers


The “Who, What, When, Where, and How” of Poison Centers

The 2013 National Poison Data System (NPDS) Annual Report is now available.  It’s a comprehensive look at the cases managed by the nation’s poison centers over the course of a year.  The staff at the AAPCC central office put together a shorter, more user-friendly summary with graphics for the public and poison prevention educators.  We call it the “Poison Center Data Snapshot” and it’s available here.  It answers the following questions:

  • Who calls the poison center?
  • When someone calls the poison center, who answers the phone?
  • About what kinds of things do people call the poison center?
  • When do people call the poison center?
  • Where do the most poison exposures occur?
  • Why do people call the poison center?

Interested in more detailed poison center data?  Visit http://www.aapcc.org/data-system/.

Krista Osterthaler, MPH
National Public Awareness and Outreach Manager
American Association of Poison Control Centers
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Poison Prevention

Guest Post: Keeping Kids Safe


 Gwenn Christianson, RN, MSN, CSPIChristianson, Gwenn, RN. MSN.14

Gwenn is a registered nurse and has worked at the Indiana Poison Center (IPC) for 26 years.  She is also a Certified  Specialist in Poison Information (CSPI).  Prior to working at IPC, Gwenn worked in Adult Critical Care and in a surgical ward at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, IN for a total of 7 years. Gwenn feels that she found her true area of interest in the field of toxicology as she can work directly with patients, nearly all of whom recover uneventfully.  Still, there are always new challenges, so the work is never less than stimulating.  In addition to her work at the Indiana Poison Center, Gwenn has been active in the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) for 24 years, working with the SPI Committee, and serving on the Board of Directors, among other activities.

Gwenn is the mom of 5 children, the youngest of whom just graduated from high school.  Next year she’ll have 3 kids in college! She is also the proud grandmother of a 6 year old boy whose frequent visits keep her hopping.  In her spare time Gwenn likes to read, garden, sew and volunteer at her church.


You’re a careful parent. You use Child Resistant Caps (CRCs) on all of your medication bottles. You have those pesky plastic “ thingamajigs” on all of your bottom cabinets, which keep you – and hopefully your 2 year old – from accessing your lower cupboards. You even use baby gates to keep your child restricted to the “baby safe” rooms, out of the kitchen and laundry areas. Surely a poison exposure won’t happen in your home, right?

Not necessarily! Toddlers and preschoolers are particularly clever and agile little beings. They watch you like a hawk, seeing where you are “hiding” things, and plotting ways to reach those very items. Despite how it sounds, they’re really not devious little monsters – they are just curious, intelligent little people, eager to explore the world and to find out all about the fascinating things Mom, Dad, and other grown-ups use. Sometimes that curiosity involves tasting and eating new and inviting items.

How can you best make your home and environment Poison Safe? Follow these tips –

  1. Remember – NOTHING is POISON PROOF. Be constantly vigilant – stay on watch at all times – and if a poison exposure occurs, call your regional poison center right away at 1-800-222-1222.
  2. Keep all medications in a locked tackle box. Lock it with a combination lock or wear the key around your neck. Then, even if your child climbs up and gets the box down, he or she won’t be able to open the box and get the medications out.
  3. Do not use daily pill minders. These are nothing more than a handy multiple poison packaging device for two year olds, allowing them to take up to 7 doses of each medication at one time. Provide guests with a lock box for their medications.
  4. Lock up purses, backpacks, suitcases, and similar items. Put such items into a locked room and keep them there – and keep the kids out. These “big kid belongings” are fascinating for little ones, and they like nothing more than to go rummaging through them.
  5. Limit the number of household cleaning items you purchase. Can one multipurpose household cleaner do the job of 3 or 4 room-specific cleaners? That makes 2-3 less things for your child to encounter! Get the smallest size possible, use it all up, and throw it away in the outside trash – then the children won’t encounter the open bottle in storage. This is especially important for caustic products that can cause life-threatening burns, such as toilet bowl cleaners and drain cleaners. (No, it is not as cost-effective, but it is much safer – and which is more important?)
  6. Do not rely on putting items up high and out of reach to ensure safety. Kids climb! Kids pull out drawers and climb up on counters and cabinets, bookshelves and TV units. They stack their miniature chairs on their little tables and build towering edifices to reach the top of the refrigerator or the top shelf in the linen closet. While putting things up high may slow them down, it doesn’t stop a determined child from reaching what they want to find.

If the unexpected does occur, remember that this is NOT a reflection on your worthiness as a parent. Accidents happen! Collect your child and the product, grab the phone, and call your regional poison center at 1-800-222-1222. The friendly experts there are ready to help you assess the situation and determine what needs to be done. You will get the proper directions, your child will get the proper care, and you can learn more about how to make your home safe and prevent further exposures.


Meet Libbye Johnson – Poison Expert at the Mississippi Poison Control Center

Meet Libbye Johnson – Poison Expert at the Mississippi Poison Control Center

When you call the Poison Help line, a poison expert is on the other end of line to help you. While many of these experts are physicians, nurses and pharmacists, they’re also parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers and friends just like you.

The AAPCC is proud to showcase the dedicated professionals at America’s poison centers.

Libbye Johnson Spotlight

News, Poison Prevention

Presidential Proclamation — National Poison Prevention Week, 2014

For Immediate Release
March 14, 2014

Presidential Proclamation — National Poison Prevention Week, 2014


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Over the past four decades, America has seen a steep decline in childhood deaths from accidental poisonings — thanks in part to improved safety measures and increased public awareness. During National Poison Prevention Week, we do our part to remain vigilant, ask our loved ones to use common-sense precautions, and learn about the potentially life-saving action we can take in case of emergency.

While we have made great strides, unintentional poisoning still takes the lives of about 30 American children every year and sends tens of thousands to the hospital. Because the vast majority of these accidents occur in the home, it is essential for parents and caregivers to keep potentially harmful products — including cleaning supplies and medication — out of their children’s reach and sight. If you ever suspect a child, family member, or anyone has been poisoned, quick action may prevent serious injury or death. You should immediately call the toll-free Poison Help Line at 1-800-222-1222.

Earlier this year, I signed the Poison Center Network Act, which supports the hotline, a poison prevention grant program, and an awareness campaign. As my Administration promotes safe practices across our country, each of us can make our homes and communities more secure. To safeguard against carbon monoxide, a deadly, colorless, odorless gas, every American should have heating systems inspected each year and install carbon monoxide alarms in their homes. And because prescription drug overdose remains the most common cause of fatal poisoning, we must properly store and dispose of medications. I encourage Americans to visit www.DEAdiversion.USDOJ.gov to read about safe prescription drug disposal and learn how to participate in the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on April 26. For information on preventing accidents and helping victims of poisoning, go to PoisonHelp.HRSA.gov.

To encourage Americans to learn more about the dangers of accidental poisonings and to take appropriate preventative measures, the Congress, by joint resolution approved September 26, 1961, as amended (75 Stat. 681) has authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation designating the third week of March each year as “National Poison Prevention Week.”

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim March 16 through March 22, 2014, as National Poison Prevention Week. I call upon all Americans to observe this week by taking actions to protect their families from hazardous household materials and misuse of prescription medicines.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fourteenth day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.