Break Point!

Volume 4, Issue 2 View the Archives February, 2001
How Much Do You Know About Poison Prevention?
Do You Know What Is Inside Your Medicine Chest?
The Deadliest Drugs on the Street May Be Under Your Kitchen Sink
Taking a Safety Tour With Young Children
Surf's Up- A guide To Internet Sites On The Web
Next Month in Injury Prevention

How Much Do You Know About Poison Prevention?

Kathy O'Day
Loyola University Burn and Shock Trauma Institute, Injury Prevention Program

When people think about poison prevention the first thing that comes to their minds is the picture of a baby ingesting a poisonous substance.  But what many are unaware of are the number of children sniffing poisonous fumes to get high and the elderly or confused person over medicating themselves unintentionally.

Poison Prevention Week (March 11-17) is a time to become aware of all the different ways people are hurt or killed by unintentional poisonings and ways to prevent an incident in your home.

Break Point will provide information on the ways children, young adults and mature adults are affected by poisons and provide tips for prevention.

Surf's up will have various websites for additional information about poisons and where the nearest poison control center is to your home.

Break Point is produced by Loyola University, Burn and Shock Trauma Institute Injury Prevention Program. Please call us at (708) 327-2455 or email to: Kathy O'Day with any comments or questions.

Back to Index

Do You Know What Is Inside Your Medicine Chest?

As spring approaches many think of spring cleaning and preparing for the warmer weather. Don't forget to add the medicine chest to your list of chores. When was the last time you checked for expiration dates on your prescription medicine or over-the-counter medications? If you are like many people, probably not for a very long time.

It is important to clean out your medicine cabinet periodically and throw out medicines, which have either expired or are more than two years old. Once a medication has expired the product begins to break down. It can become weakened in strength, and could cause adverse reactions. Some warning signs that medication has gone bad include: discoloration or residue at the bottom of the bottle- pills that are crumbly or give off a vinegary odor; ointments that have separated.

There are some other things to be aware of when cleaning your medicine chest:

For senior adults,

  • Never mix medications in a single container.
  • Some chemicals react with each other and neutralize the medicines or cause harmful side effects
  • Keep your pharmacist informed about additions and deletions to your medications to prevent hazardous drug interactions.
  • Categorize all your medications to prevent confusion. Talk to a healthcare professional about developing a medication management schedule.
  • Keep all medications out of the reach of your grandchildren.

Poison prevention tips regardless of age:

  • Never administer or take medications prescribed to someone else, even if the symptoms are similar.
  • Always turn on the lights before taking or giving any medications to ensure that you are able to identify medication properly.
  • In an emergency situation, call the Poison Control Center immediately at: 1-800-924-5969

Back to Index

The Deadliest Drugs on the Street May Be Under Your Kitchen Sink

When you think of young people using drugs, alcohol and marijuana probably come to mind first. Some young people do use those drugs, but each year more are abusing another group of substances that you may know little about. These are called inhalants. The abuse of inhalants is also called solvent abuse, huffing, sniffing, glue sniffing, or volatile substance abuse.

There are over 1,000 inhalants - common products most often found in the home, office, and classroom. These products are legal because they have a useful purpose. They are also safe when used for that purpose. But when young people misuse them by breathing them into their lungs, inhalants are poison. Over time, the abuse of inhalants can cause severe permanent damage to the body, especially the brain. The scariest thing about inhalants is that your child could die from using them only once.

No one can predict how much of an inhalant will kill. A young person can use a certain amount one time and seem fine, but his or her next use could be fatal.

The Texas Commission on Drugs and Alcohol Abuse reports the following ways that inhalants can kill:

  • Asphyxia - Solvent gases can cause a person to stop breathing from a lack of oxygen.
  • Choking - Users can choke on their own vomit.
  • Suffocation - This is more common among users who inhale from plastic bags.
  • Injuries - Inhalants can cause people to become careless or aggressive. This often leads to behaviors that can injure or kill, such as operating a motor vehicle dangerously or jumping from great heights. Teens also can get burned or even be killed if someone lights a cigarette while they are huffing butane, gasoline, or some other flammable substance.
  • Suicides - Coming down from an inhalant high causes some people to feel depressed, which may lead them to take their own lives.
  • Cardiac arrest - Chemicals from inhalants can make the heart beat very fast and irregularly, then suddenly stop breathing. This is called cardiac arrest. One reason why this might happen is that inhalants somehow make the heart extra-sensitive to adrenaline. (Adrenaline is a hormone that the body produces, usually in response to fear, excitement, or surprise.) A sudden rush of adrenaline combined with inhalants can make the heart stop instantly.

This "Sudden Sniffing Death," as it is called, is responsible for more than half of all deaths due to inhalant abuse.

National surveys indicate that over 12 1/2 million Americans have abused inhalants at least once in their lives.

Here is a list of only a few of the common household products that are dangerous when inhaled:

  • Cooking spray
  • Typewriter correction fluid
  • Disinfectants
  • Fabric protectors
  • Felt-tip markers
  • Furniture polish and wax
  • Oven cleaners
  • Air fresheners
  • Spray deodorants
  • Hair sprays
  • Nail polish removers
  • Pressurized aerosol sprays
  • Butane
  • Gasoline
  • Glues and adhesives
  • Paints and paint thinners
  • Refrigerants (freon)
  • Rust removers
  • Spray paints

Although some states have laws to try and deal with inhalant abuse, such laws are not always easy to enforce. Since inhalants are legal and kids can get them from so many different ways, it is not possible to make inhalants entirely off-limits. The best way to fight inhalant abuse is to educate your child about

how harmful these products are. Explain how they can cause both short- and long-term health problems, further drug abuse, and death. It is important to start talking with children at a young age, because inhalant abuse often starts as young as 8 or 9 years old. Parents and teachers should also be able to recognize the warning signs of inhalant abuse.

(American Academy of Pediatrics-"Inhalant Abuse: Your Child and Drugs)

Back to Index

Taking a Safety Tour With Young Children

Poison Prevention Week (March 11 - 17) marks a perfect time to take a walking tour of your home with your children. Walk from room to room and spot the poisonous substances, explain how they could get injured and see what substances are not in a safe place.

When talking with children, it can be very useful to have the children try to identify the poisons to assess how much they know. You may also want to ask them questions about poisons and let them explain to you why they are dangerous.

You may want to start with a checklist so you and your child can look at the checklist together to see if you spot anything dangerous that may cause injuries. You could also have your child draw a picture of your home and include an attic, garage and a basement. Have the child draw pictures of what they saw and discuss the picture after your walking tour. You may also want to have a celebration with a treat if your house is childproof.

While this list is not exhaustive, it is a good starting point for your walking tour:


Dish washing- detergent- liquid dish soap- scouring soap- window cleaner- oven cleaner- medicines- vitamins- furniture polish - drain cleaner/opener - ammonia


Gasoline-kerosene- car wax/soaps - weed killers/pesticides- paint windshield-antifreeze

Laundry Room:

Laundry detergent- bleach - fabric softener - dye

Closet/Storage Spaces:

Rat/ant poisons -moth balls & sprays


Alcoholic beverages-flaking paint- broken plaster


Cosmetic products- shampoo- medications-cleansers - lotions-perfume-mouthwash


Medicines/pain killers - cosmetics

Back to Index

Surf's Up- A Guide To Internet Sites On The Web

Kids Source On Line

Pharmacy Association Offers Healthful Advice During Poison Prevention Week. PARD website has poison prevention tips for the whole family.

American Academy of Pediatrics

The Break Point article on inhalant use is an excerpt from the AAP article, read the full text along with FAQ's on inhalant use/abuse. Why children use inhalants, how to treat someone who is using inhalants and tips to avoid inhalant use.

Internet Public Library-Poison Prevention

This site has activities geared towards young children and poison prevention. There are pages that can be printed to be colored, games and a certificate that can be reproduced. There is also a page for parents that provide tips to navigate the site with your child.

National Institute on Drug Abuse-Research Report Series

Inhalant Abuse Issue

This issue of the National Institute on Drug Abuse Series answers questions parents may have on what inhalant abuse is, who may be abusing inhalants, the short and long ten-n affects of inhalant abuse, and provides a glossary to help parents identify some terms of inhalant use. There is also a reference section parents may want to look at for further information.

Life Essentials by Zee

This site offers safety tips to help avoid some of the common ways children can obtain poisons. There are also pages to get safety tips on other injury prevention issues. This company also provides a catalogue of custom-made first-aid kits that suit your families needs.

*It is important to note that children who have access to the Internet should get permission from their parents first. Parents should observe their children while they use the Internet to help them avoid dangerous situations while they surf.

Back to Index

Coming Next Month in Injury Prevention

  • National Poison Prevention Week (March 18-24)

The information on the Loyola University Health System (LUHS) Web site is for educational purposes only. It is presented in summary form in order to impart general information relating to certain diseases, ailments, physical conditions and their treatments. The information provided through the LUHS Web site should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease, nor is it a substitute for professional care. Should you have any health-care related questions or suspect you have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

@1995 - 2001 Loyola University Health System.  All rights reserved.
 Disclaimer | Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy

Loyola University Medical Center Injury Prevention Program | Loyola University Health System | Email Site Administrator

Home | Transportation | Falls | Home and Leisure Safety | Fire/Burns | Poisons | Fire Arms | Water Safety