National Poison Prevention Week

Is your home safe when it comes to poisons being locked up or kept in a secure location?

Poisoning is the leading cause of injury death in the U.S, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ most recent statistics. To encourage awareness, National Poison Prevention Week is March 17-23.

Dr. Shaun Sheehan, medical director of Emergency Medicine at Penn Highlands Healthcare, said it’s important to properly secure all household cleaning products and medicines.

“You should properly dispose of all household cleaning products or make sure they are put in a secure cabinet,” he said. “Medication should also be kept in a secure location.

Sheehan sees all types of poisonings, including ones with medication.

He said children, and sometimes adults, will accidentally take a medication that could cause problems, such as a blood pressure pill. One dose of a blood pressure pill can affect the body’s ability to manage blood pressure and heart rate.

Sheehan said if you do find yourself in an emergency situation, it is important to call your local poison control center as soon as possible. “It’s important to combat the side effects for as long as it takes,” he said regarding treatment.

“If you have a question or are unsure of what’s dangerous, call your local center,” he said. “They will give you advice on what to do.” That advice could be to go immediately to the emergency room or to watch the person in trouble and monitor their symptoms, he said.

How can you stay safe? “It really all comes down to locking up your pills and cleaning products,” Sheehan said. “That would take care of roughly 20 percent of reported poisonings.

In 2017, 93 percent of human exposures reported to poison control centers, or PCCs, occurred at a residence, but they can also occur in the workplace, schools, outdoors, and anywhere else.

About 66 percent of the 2.1 million exposures reported to PCCs were treated at the exposure site, saving millions of dollars in medical expenses. In fact, poison centers save Americans more than $1.8 billion every year in medical costs and lost productivity, according to the report.

Analgesics, or pain killers, are the number one reason for poisoning across most age groups, the report said. Sheehan said synthetic drugs are also becoming more of a problem locally. “When you get into adolescent drug use you run into synthetic marijuana, which is pretty unpredictable,” he said. “It causes strange behavior.”

Sheehan said it’s best to use your judgement and commonsense when deciding to call 911 or the hotline.

“Basically if you see someone take something and there are adverse effects, call 911 or go to the emergency room,” he said. “If you are unsure and need advice, call the hotline.”

The hotline number is 1-800-222-1222. For more information about the Emergency Departments at Penn Highlands Healthcare, visit