COLUMBUS – Medications are intended to keep Ohioans healthy, but when used improperly they can lead to life threatening situations.

It is National Poison Prevention Week, and Jerry Wiesenhahn, a certified drug poison specialist with the Drug and Poison Information Center at Cincinnati Children’s, says prescription drug overdose is the leading cause of calls to poison control centers in Ohio.

“These could be anywhere from toddlers who accidentally get into prescription medication, to teenagers who are trying to abuse medications to get high, to seniors who – because they have multiple medications they are taking – may get confused or take the wrong thing at the wrong time,” he explains.

Wiesenhahn explains emergency rooms in the U.S. treat more than 59,000 each day, and about 18,000 Ohioans die each year of drug overdose.

He recommends patients use vigilance when using prescription medication by always following the label directions, and ensuring drugs are kept away and out of sight of little ones.

While pillboxes might make taking daily medication simple, Wiesenhahn says they are very easy for children to get into. He adds that’s why medication should always be kept in its original packaging. But not even that is always foolproof.

“Those are child-resistant closures, not childproof,” he points out. “Given long enough, many toddlers can get into those things.

“So we want people to understand that plastic closure does not substitute for parental supervision.”

And he says the same goes for household cleaners and chemicals.

If a poisoning of any kind is suspected, specially trained professionals are available at poison control centers around Ohio.

Wiesenhahn stresses no situation is too small to call about.

“We’re not here to pass judgment on anybody or anything like that,” he states. “Many times, I think parents are kind of shy about calling us, but it’s a fact that more than 50 percent of children will need the services of a poison center by the time they’re five.”

The number to call is 1-800-222-1222 from anywhere in the state.

To avoid poisoning, prescription medication should stay in its original container. avoid poisoning, prescription medication should stay in its original container.

By Mary Kuhlman

Ohio News Connection