Seniors learn about poisoning and celebrate Christmas together

Cheryl Lang, education coordinator of the Regional Center for Poison Control and Prevention, talked to seniors about poisoning on Nov. 30, 2017 at 120 Shawmut Avenue. (Image courtesy of South Cove Manor.)

By South Cove Manor


South Cove Manor hosted a community breakfast seminar for seniors on Nov. 30, 2017, on poisoning and held a holiday party on Dec. 21, 2017, at the Boston Chinese Evangelical Church (BCEC). About 40 seniors attended the November seminar, while more than 50 elders braved cold weather for the December singalong with the church choir.

A Christmas singalong and gift-giving party took place Dec. 21, 2017. (Image courtesy of South Cove Manor.)

The December party presented gifts to the seniors from South Cove Manor, BCEC and Midtown Home Health Services.

Poison means any substance that causes illness or harm if someone eats it, drinks it, touches it, or breathes it in, said Cheryl Lang, education coordinator for the Regional Center for Poison Control and Prevention, serving Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Poisoning happens often in everyday life, as nothing is without poison. Even life-saving medicines in high doses can become poison.

Poisoning is the No. 1 cause of injury death in the United States. Every year, nearly 2.5 million poison exposures are reported. And every year, nearly 100,000 adults aged 65 and older are admitted to the hospital for side effects from drugs. In Massachusetts, the total calls for every age of poisoning are 33,331, of which, there are 36 fatal exposures. Among people of 50 years old or older, the total exposures are 4,829 and the total fatal exposures are 15.

While children are more often exposed to poisons, adults suffer more serious poisoning injuries and deaths. Roughly 81 percent of adults who are over 19 suffer serious injuries; of these adults, 91 percent die from poisoning. A total of 19 percent of children under 19 suffer serious injuries from poisoning, and 9 percent of them may lose their lives.

The most common poisoning substances are exposures to cardiovascular drugs, analgesics, sedatives, hypnotics, antipsychotics, antidepressants and household cleaners.

How to prevent a poisoning?

  • Use legitimate sources of health information. Your primary source of health information about your medication (or any health problem) should always be your doctor. Here are some questions you might ask your health provider:
    • What is the name of my medicine?
    • Why am I taking this medicine?
    • What side effects could I have
    • How much do I take and how often?
    • What should I do if I miss a dose?
    • What should I avoid while taking the medicine?
  • If you obtain information from the Internet, be sure to use a trusted website ending in .org, .gov, or .edu. Make sure you:
    • Know names, reason for use, and side effects.
    • Review medicines with medical professionals.
    • Don’t use more medicine than is prescribed.
    • Compare active ingredients.
    • Plan ahead to refill prescriptions.
    • Properly dispose of expired/unused medicine.
    • Never take medicine in the dark. Turn on the lights to see what you’re taking.
  • Call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 for any questions you may have regarding a medicine.
  • You need to take special caution when using dietary and herbal supplements. There are over 1,500 documented interactions between drugs, herbal medicines and dietary supplements because supplements could change the way a prescription medicine works in the body.
  • You can keep a medicine journal or pill reminder box to know the right amount of pills to take every day.


How to prevent children from poisoning

According to research, one child in the United States needs a poison center every 30 seconds, which means children are extremely vulnerable and incapable of distinguishing poisons. Around 60,000 young children were brought to the emergency room each year after getting into medicines that were left within reach. However, grandparents are four times more likely than parents to keep prescription medicines in easily accessible places. What you need to do is to familiarize yourself with potential poison sites and avoid placing pills there.

  • You might need to store the pills or potential hazards up and away as soon as possible, so children can’t reach them. When you put them in the cabinet, make sure you lock them when you are away.
  • After you take the pills, make sure you secure the child safety cap or packaging.
  • Dispose of unused, unneeded or expired medications.
  • Follow directions on the label when administering medicine.
  • Do not refer to medicine as candy to children because sometimes they look very similar. Children might mistakenly take them, as if they are candy.
  • Keep all products in their original containers.
  • Never mix household products together.
  • Detect invisible threats; install carbon monoxide detectors in your home.
  • Post the Poison Center Hotline phone number somewhere visible in your residence or organization.

What to do when someone is poisoned?

  • Call 9-1-1 if the victim has collapsed, stopped breathing or had a seizure.
  • Otherwise, call the Poison Hotline 1-800-222-1222 for assistance. The hotline is operational 24/7 for free, with medical professionals’ assistances in many different languages. The service is professional and totally confidential. When you call the hotline as an emergency, be ready to provide information on:
    • Victims’ age and weight.
    • What they were exposed to, if available.
    • Where and when the exposure happened.
    • Remain on the phone and follow instructions from the emergency operator or poison control center.

The Poison Hotline provides services when there’s been a poisoning, or if you are concerned about a possible poisoning, or to ask a poisoning prevention question, or to ask for poison prevention materials.

The next seminar will take place Jan. 25.


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