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Each year more than 2 million calls are received at poison centers nationwide. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, poisoning is the No. 1 cause of injury death in the country, with a majority of the deaths due to drug and medicine misuse and abuse.

Children are at particular risk.

The Palmetto Poison Center received more than 30,000 calls in 2017 from all counties in South Carolina and over half of the calls were for exposures in children under the age of 6 years.

Parents and caregivers can prevent unintentional poisonings by using child-resistant packaging and keeping medicines and household products locked up and out of sight of children. Often new parents and caregivers, who are not accustomed to having small children in the home, are unaware of the dangers presented by everyday household products. Parents and caregivers should follow these basic poison prevention tips to reduce the risk of unintentional poisonings:

• Keep all household products and medicines locked up, and out of sight and reach.

• Use child resistant packaging properly by closing the container securely after use.

• When any product is in use, keep it in sight. Walking away from it only briefly can lead to an exposure.

• Keep all items in their original containers.

• Read the label before using any product or medicine.

• Avoid taking medicine in front of children, they love to imitate adults.

• Call 1-800-222-1222 for free, confidential information 24 hours a day, 365 days a year!

Children are not alone in being at risk.

It is alarming that unintentional poisoning has become the leading cause of injury-related deaths in the country, overtaking highway crashes. The escalation in deaths is a product of the opioid epidemic that has seen many people succumb to misuse of legal pain-killing drugs and their illegal cousins.

The National Center for Health Statistics reports that since 1999, the age-adjusted drug-poisoning death rate has more than tripled, from 6.1 per 100,000 in 1999 to 16.3 per 100,000 in 2015.

In 2015, 52,404 deaths involved drug poisoning: 84 percent of these deaths were unintentional, 10 percent were suicides and 6 percent were of undetermined intent.

Of particular note, from 2010 to 2015, the percentage of drug overdose deaths involving heroin tripled from 8 percent in 2010 to 25 percent in 2015.

The Palmetto Poison Center urges the public to join in observing National Poison Prevention Week, which began March 18. Browse the center’s website at poison.sc.edu and order free information for your home. Education is vital.

Plan ahead and be safe. The statistics show there is an increasing need to do so.

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