NM Poison Center Warns of Fall Poisoning Hazards

Poison is anything that can make you sick or even kill you if you swallow it, breathe it, inject it or get it in your eyes or on your skin. While poisons are everywhere and a poisoning can happen quickly at any time, the New Mexico Poison and Drug Information Center pharmacists do see increases in certain types of poisonings as the seasons change.  Below is a list of some of the most common poisons encountered each fall season that the New Mexico Poison and Drug Information Center would like to caution you about.

"Many mushrooms and berries appear in the fall.  Children can be attracted to them by their colors and shapes.  Virginia creeper, holly and nightshade are just a few that can be hazardous.  It is important to know the names of the plants in your yard and learn which ones are toxic," cautions Jess Benson, Pharm.D., director of the New Mexico Poison and Drug Information Center.

Carbon monoxide poisoning becomes a threat as the weather becomes colder and the use of furnaces and propane and kerosene heaters increases.  Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas.  Early symptoms include flu-like symptoms such as headache, nausea, vomiting and dizziness.  More severe symptoms include confusion, fainting, seizures and coma. 

"Carbon monoxide poisoning manifests as tightness across the forehead, headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and dimness of vision.  This can progress to fluttering of the heart, chest pain, increased breathing rate, and may end with coma, convulsions and death," said Benson.

To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning install a carbon monoxide alarm, and use kerosene or propane heaters only in well ventilated areas.  Turn off your furnace or stove if you think it is malfunctioning and have it checked by the gas company. 

Insect bites still occur in the fall. As the weather becomes cooler, people move indoors and so do spiders.  Spider bites can cause painful injuries.  Shake out clothes and shoes before wearing them and wear gloves when handling firewood. 

Chile roasting season also poses special hazards.  Chile peppers have irritating chemicals that can cause prolonged discomfort for people with sensitive skin and extreme pain if contaminated fingers touch eyes or contact lenses.  This can be avoided by wearing rubber gloves while roasting, peeling and processing peppers.

For a safe fall, be sure to safely store summer products such as insecticides, pool chemicals, paints, charcoal lighter fluid, and gasoline.  Store in their original containers, under lock and key, where children cannot reach them or see them.

The New Mexico Poison Center is available for poisoning emergencies, questions about poisons, or for information about poison prevention, 24 hours a day, toll free at 1-800-222-1222.  The New Mexico Poison Center is a service of the UNM College of Pharmacy and the UNM Health Sciences Center.


Contact: Cindy Foster, 272-3322

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