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Fall Newsletter

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Poison Prevention Tips for the Fall

Kids are back in school. Cold-and-flu season is here. Holidays are just around the corner. Here are some tips to help you prevent poisonings this time of year:

  • Children often use glue, paint, ink, and other art products at home, school, and day-care. These art products are mixtures of chemicals. They can be dangerous if not used correctly. Make sure children use art products safely.
  • Berries are often found on plants in the fall and may attract children. They may think these are just like the fruits in the market, however some berries are poisonous.
  • Poisonous mushrooms called "death caps" often grow in yards and parks, only experts can tell poisonous mushrooms from safe mushrooms.
  • Fall is usually the time we turn on heaters and generators. Make sure your heating system is running smoothly. Put fresh batteries in CO alarms.

More Fall Poison Prevention Tips, or call your Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222

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What's new at PoisonHelp.hrsa.gov

The latest update to Poison Help's new Web site, PoisonHelp.hrsa.gov, is now online. The updated Web site features the most recent quarterly newsletters, new spotlight articles and fun downloads.

One of the most exciting new features is the ability to download the Poison Help jingle as a ringtone for your mobile phone. This is a great way to get the catchy and informative jingle into your phone and always have a helpful reminder that Poison Help is just a phone call away. The jingle can be downloaded in English and Spanish.

The newest Web update also features a new Poison Center Spotlight article about the West Texas Poison Center. As America's first 24-hour bilingual, bicultural regional poison center certified by the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), the West Texas Poison Center is a standout example of poison prevention activities at the local level.

Additionally, you can still find all of the most popular items on the Poison Help Web site, including seasonal tip sheets, FAQs, digital ads, and more.

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Dr. Duke visits the Washington Poison Center
Photo of Dr. William Robertson, Dr. Elizabeth Duke and Dr. William Hurley

On May 22, 2008, Dr. Elizabeth Duke, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Administrator, made a special visit to the Washington Poison Center while attending a conference in Washington State. The Washington Poison Center receives HRSA Poison Control Program (PCP) grant funding to support efforts of Poison Control Centers (PCCs) to stabilize their funding structure and improve or increase accessibility to poison prevention and control programs and services.

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Home Safety Council Develops a Poison Prevention Literacy Kit

Through a cooperative agreement with HRSA, the Home Safety Council developed low literacy poison prevention materials for literacy providers to use in their training programs. The Poison Prevention Literacy Kit contains the following:

  • A Leader's Guide for use in facilitating a 90-minute presentation on poison safety
  • Two 17" x 22" illustrated posters that teach a total of 16 messages
  • A tear pad with 8 ½ x 11 version of the posters and pencils (for participants)
  • A Prevent Poisoning at Home brochure; and
  • An interactive Prevent Poisoning at Home slide show.

These materials will be available on the Home Safety Council Web site Exit Disclaimer and distributed through their expert network.

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Nonfatal poisoning hospitalizations among teens

Nonfatal poisonings among teenagers (13-18 years of age) have been on the rise in recent years. In 2000, of all age groups, teenagers had the highest rate of nonfatal hospitalized poisonings. Although the number of teenage nonfatal poisoning hospitalizations was surpassed by adults (19 years of age or older) in 2004, teen nonfatal poisoning hospitalizations still accounted for over 26,000 incidents that year. These poisonings appear to peak with 16 year olds, but remain high until age 18. More than 75 percent of teen nonfatal hospitalizations for poisonings are self-inflicted injuries, and females make up over 70 percent of all teenage nonfatal poisoning hospitalizations. The most common substance found in teen nonfatal self-inflicted hospitalized poisonings is acetaminophen at 28 percent, followed by antidepressants at 14 percent. Acetaminophen is also the most common substance found in nonfatal unintentional hospitalized poisonings, followed by ethanol and tranquilizers.

Data Source: Healthcare Cost Utilization Project National Inpatient Sample, 2000, 2003 & 2004, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

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Poison Control Program Grantees attend Johnson & Johnson/UCLA Health Care Executive Program

The Johnson & Johnson/UCLA Health Care Executive Program is a management development program exclusively for executive directors and leaders of community-based health care organizations. Eligibility is limited to those organizations that are currently funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

For two intensive weeks at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, approximately 40 participants engaged in a curriculum that provides the requisite tools, techniques and approaches to confront mounting challenges in community health care. The program design is based on interviews with HRSA grantees, experts in the health care industry and academia, and relevant literature on management education and development for health care professionals. The format emphasizes leadership and management skills as well as institutional and technical knowledge, and draws upon UCLA's 17-year experience in conducting a similar program for directors of Head Start programs. Distinguished faculty with expertise in adult management education and knowledge of health care have tailored the curriculum to meet the specific development needs of HRSA grantees.

Five individuals from HRSA Poison Control Program grantees were selected to participate in the program this summer:

  • Deborah Anderson, PharmD (Hennepin Regional Poison Center, Minneapolis, MN)
  • Miguel Fernandez, MD, FACEP, FACMT (South Texas Poison Center, San Antonio, TX
  • Mary Powers, RN, BSN, MS, CSPI (Wisconsin Poison Center, Milwaukee, WI)
  • Kristina Ham and Ellen Chavez (California Poison Control System)

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Accidental and Nonaccidental Poisonings in Infants and Over-the-Counter Cold Medications

Apparent life-threatening events (ALTEs) are relatively common occurrences in infants and children for which there may be a number of causes. Results of the study, "Accidental and Nonaccidental Poisonings as a Cause of Apparent Life-Threatening Events in Infants," show that a significant number of infants under age 2 brought to the emergency department with an ALTE also had a positive toxicology screen report, and had been given an over-the-counter (OTC) cold medication. Of 274 toxicology screen results, 50 were positive and 23 were considered clinically significant. Thirteen toxicology results tested positive for an OTC medication, but no parents admitted to giving their children medicine. These medications are not recommended for young children, and U.S. Food and Drug Administration dosing guidelines do not exist for children under age 2. There is a real concern that giving OTC cold medications to very young infants can cause them to stop breathing. The authors suspect that infants are given OTCs inadvertently, through breastfeeding, or purposely, in order to treat cough and cold symptoms. Because of these findings, toxicology screens should be part of the routine evaluation for children with an apparent life-threatening event. The full article is available in the August issue of Pediatrics.

Pitetti, R.D., Whitman, E., and Zaylor A., Accidental and Nonaccidental Poisonings as a Cause of Apparent Life-Threatening Events in Infants; Pediatrics, Aug 2008; 122: e359 - e362

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Technical Assistance Spotlight

HRSA's Poison Center Technical Assistance Resource Center (PC TARC) has been working with the Poison Control Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, PA (PCC-CHOP) to support information technology (IT) development within their center. PCC-CHOP is required by their host institution to use Crystal Reports software, a business intelligence application used to design and generate reports from a wide range of data sources. At the time of the request, PCC-CHOP's business manager had only completed a basic course in the use of Crystal Reports and was in need of additional assistance that was not available via the host institution.

PC TARC contracted with an outside consultant to provide 4 days of one-on-one, on-site Crystal Reports (v.11) training. More specifically, this training included (1) creating parameters, (2) formulas, (3) scheduled reports, (4) report distribution lists, while also assisting in working with (5) cross tabs, (6) report designs for exporting documents into Microsoft applications, (7) charts, and (8) Web-based reports. To date, anecdotal reports from the PCC-CHOP have been promising and the Center appears to benefit from the training.

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Poison Center Resources Highlighted at n4a Conference

The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) held its annual conference from July 20-23, 2008 in Nashville, Tennessee. The meeting included a dedicated session on poisoning issues in older adults. This session, "Poisoning - A public health issue throughout the lifespan", provided participants with an understanding of recent poisoning trends in the older adult population, an overview of a pilot medication safety curriculum for the senior center setting, and services provided by poison centers. Speakers were:

  • Barbara Singer, HRSA Poison Control Program,
  • Sherri Hails, Tennessee Poison Center, and
  • Monique Sheppard, HRSA's Poison Center Technical Assistance Resource Center

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Home Safety Council Announces a New Home Safety Online Resource

The Home Safety Council's (HSC) new online resource at MySafeHome.org Exit Disclaimer now contains an innovative and interactive virtual home which lets users explore and understand where dangers lurk in their own homes. Using digital motion graphics animation, MySafeHome.org illustrates major risk areas inside and outside of the home, safety devices that every safe home should have, injury prevention tips for every age group including people with special needs, and disaster preparedness tips to keep families safe all year long.

Users are able to walk through the virtual home and choose from 12 locations; each location offers audio and visual information regarding the dangers that will most likely occur in that area, such as poisoning in the kitchen. After choosing a danger, the user is given a list of safety tips. Thousands of people have already visited MySafeHome.org Exit Disclaimer and it's quickly becoming one of HSC's most popular home safety resources.

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HRSA Poison Control Program Partners with Hollywood, Health & Society

The HRSA Poison Control Program has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to collaborate on a project with Hollywood Health & Society (HH&S). HH&S is a project at the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center that provides entertainment industry professionals with accurate and timely information for health storylines. The collaboration will facilitate opportunities to provide accurate and timely poisoning and poisoning prevention information to screen writers in the television industry in order to encourage the development of accurate storylines for television shows.

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National Safety Council hosts an Off-the-Job Symposium

On June 24 and 25, 2008, the National Safety Council (NSC) hosted an Off-the-Job Symposium in Denver, Colorado for their member employer organizations for the purpose of providing safety information and injury prevention education. NSC has more than 50,000 members, employing more than 8 million people, and 41 local chapters in the United States. Lori Roche, Director of the HRSA Poison Control Program, along with Dr. Len Paulozzi of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Dr. Javier Waksman, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, spoke on a panel, titled "Prescription Painkillers and the American Workforce." Dr. Paulozzi shared CDC data and discussed unintentional poisoning fatality trends due to prescription opiod analgesics. Dr. Waksman shared information on the causes of the accidental prescription deaths including the behavior and prescriber factors, and Ms. Roche shared information about the types of data that poison centers collect, highlighting the therapeutic errors data, and provided information about the resources offered by poison centers.

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