More people are hospitalized in Illinois for poisonings than for injuries from guns and car crashes combined. That's according to the Illinois Poison Center, which released its stats on the calls it received in 2012 this week.
The IPC received more than 80,000 calls from across the state last year alone.
Of those calls, about 48 percent were for poison exposure involving children under the age of 5. That is down from about 70 percent of the calls 10 years ago.
But last year saw a continuing increase in the number of poisoning calls involving prescription medications - especially pain killers.
The top substances the IPC most frequently received calls regarding include:
- Analgesics: 10,975 calls
- Sedative/Hypnotics/Antipsychotics: 6,581 calls
- Cosmetics/Personal Care Products: 6,518 calls
- Cleaning Substances (Household): 5,604 calls
- Antidepressants: 4,033 calls
- Foreign bodies/Toys/Misc: 3,534 calls
- Cardiovascular Drugs: 3,390 calls
- Alcohols (including beverage alcohol): 3,217 calls
- Topical Preparations: 3,145 calls
- Antihistamines: 3,059 calls
Dr. Michael Wahl, Medical Director for the Illinois Poison Center, tells us the best prevention for prescription drug poisoning is for people to be aware of what medications their family members are taking, why, and of course, whether they're taking them properly.
Also, properly storing and disposing of prescription medications is key.
"The vast majority of them get them from family members. So our grandparents, parents, older siblings who maybe they've had an operation or broken ankle and they no longer need them, but they didn't want to throw away their medicine - It's there in the medicine cabinet. It's basically having a drug dealer in your house," Dr. Wahl said.
According to the IPC, nine out of ten poisoning deaths in Illinois are caused by drugs and medications.
We've heard anecdotally that emergency room visits involving prescription drugs have been on the rise around here. No exact figures were available Friday night.
Those numbers may be misleading when it comes to the picture of poisonings in the QCA anyway. In 2012, 90 percent of calls from the general public were managed by the Illinois Poison Center's expert staff of pharmacists and nurses - without the caller having to be referred a health care facility.