Rutgers officials discuss importance of Poison Prevention Week
Poison Prevention Week is six days dedicated to raising awareness about preventing and treating poisoning.
Poisoning is anything that involves taking in or being exposed to something that could potentially be harmful to an individual, said Richard Burke, the managing director and director of drug information and professional education of the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System.
Poisoning is very common, he said. It involves anything from ingesting a drug, chemical or food that an individual gets sick from, intentionally or unintentionally.
"If somebody was trying to kill themselves or harm themselves, they may take an overdose of a medication," Burke said. "And an overdose situation is also called a poisoning. If somebody accidentally did it they’re still poisoned, but it was accidental. If they abuse a drug and end up in the hospital, that’s technically a poisoning."
Poison Prevention Week has two purposes, he said.
One is to make people aware to poison proof their homes and be safe, which involves keeping poison out of the reach of children, animals and senior citizens or people that have Alzheimer's disease. The second purpose is to make people aware of the Poison Prevention Center itself.
Burke said the most important reason to have Poison Prevention Week was to prevent the accidental poisoning of children under age 5.
One of the major goals is to prevent children from being harmed, he said.
"We want to prevent anyone from being harmed, whether it’s children, your pet or an elderly person or someone suffering from dementia,” he said. “We hope that if an emergency arises, people will call us."
If a Rutgers student had a headache and needed to take over-the-counter medication for it, Burke said he hopes they would call the center to make sure there was no interaction with other medicines the student was taking.
Not every exposure case requires a hospital visit, he said.
"Yesterday I had a mom call us on the phone freaking out because her kid ate a pack of silica gel. Well the gel for the kid was non-toxic, but the mother was frantic," he said. "So my job was to calm the mother down, (and) let her know it was non-toxic and tell her she does not have to rush her child to the emergency room."
The center was currently involved in the two major lead exposure issues in the state at Morristown Medical Center and the City of Newark, where more than 30 schools have lead poisoning in the water systems. He said the center providse hotline services where people can seek information on lead poisoning.
Allergy season is approaching, he said.
Some students may take multiple medicines with the same ingredient and accidentally overdose on it, Burke said. One of the best steps people can take is going to the center's website and looking at poison prevention tips.
"We make it very easy to find out how to protect yourselves," he said.
People should stay away from the Internet and information on it, as a lot of the details that are easily found are not true, Burke said.
"We really encourage people to seek professional help," he said.
Sanjana Chandrasekharan is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in political science. She is a staff writer for The Daily Targum.