Poison Prevention: Children Act Fast ... So Do Poisons with Paige Cucchi, MSPH and Robert Geller, MD

WebMD Live Events Transcript

National Poison Prevention Week: Children act fast ... so do poisons! Talk with the experts from the Georgia Poison Center.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Our guests today are Dr. Robert Geller, Medical Director, and Paige Cucchi, Public Education Coordinator, of Georgia Poison Center. We are discussing poison prevention as part of National Poison Prevention Week. To ask a question please type /ask followed by your question. For example: /ask What is the topic?

Robert J. Geller, MD, is the medical director of the Georgia Poison Center. Dr. Geller is board certified in medical toxicology and pediatrics. He is also an associate professor of pediatrics at Emory University and a staff member at Grady Memorial Hospital and Egleston Children's Hospital.

Paige S. Cucchi, MSPH, is the public education coordinator for the Georgia Poison Center. Cucchi is the co-author of a school-based poison prevention curriculum for kindergarten through third grade, which has been used in over 500 elementary schools throughout Georgia. She also coordinated the development of a community-based train-the-trainer program for health care and education professionals. Cucchi is the immediate past co-chair of the national public education committee of the American Association of Poison Control Centers. She is also the co-chair for the national poison prevention campaign committee, responsible for the planning of a national campaign to promote poison center and poison prevention awareness.

Welcome, Dr. Geller and Miss Cucchi. What is a poison?

Dr. Geller: Any substance in excess can become poisonous. By poisonous, I mean that it harms any living being, that it prevents us to do the things that we normally would do. Substances that we normally consider very good for people, when taken in excess amounts, can be poisonousto that same person. The famous Greek physician, Paracelsus, was quoted, I think around the time of Jesus, "The dose makes the poison." We still believe that today.

Moderator: Are unintentional poisonings really a problem?

Atlanta_Speaker Yes, unfortunately, there are millions and millions, literally, of children, adults, and pets who are unintentionally poisoned every year in the United States. One of the goals of National Poison Prevention Week is to make people aware of this problem and alert them to steps they may be able to take to reduce the chances of such a poisoning happening to them or their loved ones.

Moderator: Who is at greatest risk of poisoning?

Cucchi: Children are at greatest risk. More than 50% of the reported poisonings involves children 6 and younger. but few people realize that adults have poisoning, too, and in fact, 30% of the calls received by the Georgia Poison Center involves adults. And finally we have to remember that pets, too, can be poisoned. And like children, dogs and cats are curious, and they can be poisoned by the same substances that people are poisoned by.

Moderator: How are adults poisoned?

Dr. Geller: There are a number of methods by which adults can be poisoned. Adults can be poisoned by failing to read the label on a product and by not following the directions for use on the product. Also, some adults can be poisoned on the jobsite or at home doing various tasks at which products leak out of a container. And thirdly, unfortunately, some adults are intentionally trying to harm themselves and take medicines in doses in excess of those intended to be used safely. And of course, I didn't mention in that list, but we need to consider also the fact that some adults or even children may use drugs for the purpose of drug abuse.

Moderator: Dr. Geller, what is the first thing you should do when you suspect poisoning?

Dr. Geller: I think the first thing you should do is try to assess the status of the victim briefly. Obviously, if the victim isn't breathing or doesn't have a heart rate, you need to start CPR (cardiopulmonary recussitation). The next thing, if it's safe to do so, the next thing to do is to prevent further exposure of the victim. And the circumstance I'm thinking of, let's say the victim is lying in a pool of chemical. We want to move them out of the chemical, but only if it's safe for you, the rescurer, to do so. Then, after we've done those two things, it's helpful, if there are bottle or labels or pills lying around, pick them up and call the poison center for help in deciding what to do next.




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