As New Mexico experiences colder weather and families gather to celebrate the winter holidays, the New Mexico Poison and Drug Information Center (NMPDIC) urges the public to take precautions to help prevent poison exposures that occur more frequently around this time of year.
In 2014, the NMPDIC received 196 calls regarding carbon monoxide. Also referred to as the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas released through defective generators, gas furnaces and heaters, gasoline-powered vehicles and equipment and other fuel-burning appliances. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, each year hundreds of Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room and more than 4,000 are hospitalized.
The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. If enough carbon monoxide is inhaled, it can cause unconsciousness, impaired coordination and even death. Avoid running generators in enclosed spaces and never warm up a vehicle inside the garage, even if the doors are open. Additionally, installing and regularly replacing battery-operated carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home can help to determine if there is a leak.
During the excitement of holiday celebrations, alcohol safety is also an important consideration. In 2014, the NMPDIC managed 223 cases of alcohol exposure in those under the age of 20 years. Even a small amount of ingested alcohol can cause severely low blood sugar and distress to a toddler’s central nervous system. Alcohol found in mouthwash, hand sanitizers and other personal care products also can cause alcohol poisoning. Please keep all products containing alcohol out of sight and reach of children.
Lastly, toy and battery safety remains a serious concern for poison center experts during the winter holidays. In 2014, the NMPDIC provided 200 consultations for cases involving foreign body and/or battery ingestion in those under the age of 20 years.
Foreign bodies are consistently one of the more common children’s substance exposures managed by poison centers each year. Button batteries, which can be found in watches, toys, games, flashing jewelry, singing greeting cards and remote control devices, can be especially dangerous when swallowed by children. These batteries can become stuck in the throat, causing severe tissue damage and even death. Button batteries also can cause injury when placed in the nose or ears.
Also, antique toys and toys that have been made in some foreign countries pose a higher risk for lead exposure. Therefore, parents and caregivers are encouraged to carefully inspect these types of toys for chipping or worn paint before allowing children to play with them, and reviewing toy recall notices before purchasing new toys.
Again, please keep all buttons and holiday ornaments out of sight and reach of children. If you think someone has been poisoned, call 1-800-222-1222 right away. Don’t wait for symptoms to appear. The experts at the NMPDIC provide free and confidential information and treatment advice 24 hours per day, seven days a week, year-round, including holidays.