Not Invincible: Young adults underutilize poison centers
Apr 16, 2012 (American Association of Poison Control Centers - McClatchy-Tribune News Service via COMTEX) --
A college student with a spider bite wonders if it's normal that angry red lines have formed around the wound.
A young student realizes that she has become addicted to pain medications after her wisdom tooth surgery.
A 19-year-old serviceman wonders if this "new" drug he's been offered by a fellow soldier is really so harmless.
These scenarios faced by young adults warranted calls to their local poison centers. Unfortunately, these individuals didn't know who to ask - and ended up with a serious infection, unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, and a stay in a drug treatment facility, respectively.
People ages 18 through 24 can find themselves in new and unexpected situations as they leave home for college, work, travel or military service. Some of these situations involve poisoning, whether that means a venomous bite or sting, drug abuse, alcohol poisoning, or a medication mistake.
A national survey of adults by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration shows that, with the exception of senior citizens, people ages 18 through 24 are:
_ Less likely to be familiar with poison centers and the 1-800-222-1222 Poison Help number.
_ Less likely to be aware that the poison control hotline is a free service, available 24 hours a day.
_ Less likely to know that poison centers take calls about adult medication mistakes.
It is also worrisome that this group was found to be much more likely than other demographic groups to search the Internet for information about a potential poisoning. According to the report, "More people are turning to the Internet as a source of (poison) information, from 6 percent in 2006, compared to 25 percent who relied on Internet sources in 2011."
The problem with relying on Internet information is, of course, determining the quality and reliability of that information. In a chat room, there is no way to verify the expertise of the person you are chatting with, and it is difficult to assess which of the thousands of pages of search results might hold the answer to your urgent situation. Valuable time can be lost in the search process. America's 57 poison centers provide immediate, expert advice to all callers, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The calls are fully confidential and free.
The experts at America's 57 poison centers offer the following tips for staying safe from poison regardless of your age:
_ Program your cell phone with the toll-free Poison Help line: 1-800-222-1222. That can be a lot of numbers to remember in an emergency or to dial with shaking hands.
_ Teach young adults to be cautious with medications, and to take action if someone appears to be in distress from drug or alcohol intoxication.
_ Call for yourself, a friend or a family member. The experts at your local poison center can advise whether or not a situation is a dangerous medical emergency, or if it can be handled safely on site.
The American Association of Poison Control Centers supports the nation's 60 poison control centers in their efforts to prevent poisoning. Poison centers offer free and confidential services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
If you believe you've been exposed to a poison or have questions about whether a substance is poisonous, call your local poison control center at 1 (800) 222-1222.
(c) 2012, American Association of Poison Control Centers
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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