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Poisoning potentials as students head back to the classroom

Back to School

FOR RELEASE: September 13, 2021

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – It’s time for another school year and as routines slowly get back to normal after a school year filled with at-home learning, make sure you take the time to poison-proof your new classroom and your home. New routines can mean new distractions which could result in an accidental or intentional poisoning. 

Last school year, our poison center managed more than 31,000 cases of school-aged children who were exposed to a variety of potential poisons. We saw an increase in exposures for kids getting into personal care products (including hand sanitizers) and home cleaning products. However, our number one call, from a parent or caregiver for children between six to 19 years old was for pain medicines (i.e., ibuprofen and acetaminophen).

“This school year we anticipate seeing many of the same calls we saw last year as some kids head back to class and others remain at home,” says Michele Caliva, administrative director of the Upstate New York Poison Center, “We are prepared to handle yet another school year with calls for children getting into potentially poisonous products. We urge all families to take the time now to go over what is in your home, put ALL cleaning products up, away, and out of sight of children, talk to your children about what could make them sick and have our number saved: 1-800-222-1222.”

Things to watch out for at school & at home:

  • MEDICATIONS: Child-resistant does not mean childproof. Keep all medicines up & away from children. Carefully read and follow directions and warnings on all labels before taking or giving medicine. Schools have medication policies, so be sure to find out what they are and discuss with your child. Teach children to never take medicine meant for someone else, it could be a deadly mistake.
  • CLEANING PRODUCTS: Keep all cleaning products in their original containers and place them up and out of the reach of children, even during use. Don’t mix cleaning products and follow all label directions, warnings and precautions.
  • HAND SANITIZERS: A lick of hand sanitizer is not fatal, but drinking it could cause alcohol poisoning. If using in the classroom or at home, teach children less than a dime-sized amount of sanitizer is adequate to clean hands. Hands should be rubbed together until dry. In the 2020-2021 school year, we received a little more than 200 calls for exposures to hand sanitizers for babies to 19-year-olds.
  • SCHOOL LUNCH: It is important to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold to prevent food poisoning. Pack appropriate lunch items that will not spoil in a lunch box. Washing fruits and vegetables beforehand helps remove dirt, bacteria, and pesticides. Encourage children to wash their hands every time before eating.
  • PLAYGROUNDS: Playgrounds can be a breeding ground for poisonous and non-poisonous mushrooms. It is hard to tell the difference. Teach children to never pick a mushroom. If they do, wash their hands, and then call us.

    The Upstate New York Poison Center has created a video to explain some of these common poisoning potentials:

In the case of a poisoning or for information purposes, call the Upstate New York Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222. We are open 24/7, 365 days a year. Each year our center manages more than 50,000 calls from health care providers, 911 operators, hospitals, industry, schools, and the general public in our 54-county service area.

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About Upstate New York Poison Center

Housed inside Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY, the Upstate New York Poison Center is dedicated to reducing the number, cost and severity of poisonings within its designated 54-county service area as mandated by New York State Law. The Center is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to both health professionals and the general public at 1-800-222-1222.

About Upstate Medical University

SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY, is the only academic medical center in Central New York. It is also the region's largest employer with 9,460 employees. Affiliated with the State University of New York, Upstate's mission is to improve the health of the community through education, biomedical research and health care.