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Poison potential as thousands head back to school

'Back to School' on chalk board

FOR RELEASE: Sept. 3, 2019          

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – As thousands of students head back to school this week, the Upstate New York Poison Center knows of the dangers that lurk at school and after school. New routines can mean new distractions which could result in an accidental or intentional poisoning.

During this past school year, September 1st 2018 through June 30th 2019, we saw 5,514 poisoning cases (intentional and unintentional) from children & teens between 6-years-old to 19-years-old. The highest number of poisoning cases for school-aged children came from medicines.

Each year, the Upstate New York Poison Center manages more than 80,000 calls from health care providers, 911 operators, hospitals, industry, schools and general public in a 54-county service area.

Top 5 poisonings during the 2018-2019 school year:

  1. Over-the-counter pain medicine (i.e. – acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen)
  2. Antidepressants
  3. Antihistamines
  4. Cosmetics/personal care products (i.e. – makeup, hand sanitizers, perfume)
  5. Stimulants & street drugs

Throughout the course of the year we notice varying trends around poisonings,” says Upstate New York Poison Center Administrative Director Michele Caliva. “During the school year, cases involving children ingesting ink from pens or drinking hand sanitizer increases. We consistently see school-aged children ingesting over-the-counter pain medications.  A possible explanation for this is medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen are found in most homes. They are often left out allowing for easy access by kids.”

Things to watch out for at school & at home:

  • MEDICINES AT HOME & AT SCHOOL: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 it is and discuss it with children. Teach children to never take medicine meant for someone else, it could be a deadly mistake.
  • HAND SANITIZERS:A lick of hand sanitizer is not fatal, but drinking it could cause alcohol poisoning. Hand sanitizers should not be included in a young child’s backpack. 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 2018-2019 school year, we received 79 calls for hand sanitizer poisonings.
  • BOXED LUNCH:It is most 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 you do, wash their hands and call us.

In the case of a poisoning or for information purposes, you can always call the Upstate New York Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222. We are open 24/7, 365 days a year.

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CONTACT: Allison Mirabito, 315-464-7090, [email protected]

About Upstate New York Poison Center
Housed inside Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, N.Y., 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.