Health and Wellness… Poisoning in the Elderly

Ann CochranDallas County Public Health
Health and Wellness… Poisoning in the Elderly

When you hear the phrase “poison prevention,” you probably think of young children putting harmful substances into their mouths. According to the Iowa Poison Control Center, older adults are poisoned more often than you may think. How does this happen?

Risks for poisoning among older adults include toxic fumes from incorrectly using or mixing cleaning solutions or lawn chemicals, or from carbon monoxide leaking out of gas stoves, water heaters or furnaces. Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause death very quickly.

One of the most common means of poisoning among elders is incorrectly taking medicine, either prescription or over-the-counter. Taking a prescription medication at the wrong time, in the wrong amount, or combined with the wrong substance can all spell trouble. Learn about your medicines by reading labels and asking your pharmacist questions.

Important medicine safety tip: Always turn on a light and put on your glasses before giving or taking medications.

Another area of poisoning among adults is from vitamins, dietary supplements and herbals. Because these substances aren’t regulated as are pharmaceuticals, special caution is needed. It is very important to bring these along with you when you see your doctor, to be sure they don’t interfere with your medications.