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Upstate New York Poison Center says unintentional poisonings increase as school begins

Max Klingensmith

Now that school is in full swing, the Upstate New York Poison Center is starting to get school-related calls. These, along with the usual calls, are seeing some alarming trends emerging.

A new school year brings new poisoning potentials. But according to Michelle Caliva, the Poison Center’s administrative director, it is a recent trend that is concerning. There were an alarming number of cases last year in children and teens who were unintentionally poisoned by pain medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Caliva said that an even more troubling a trend, involving teens, is emerging as well.

"The intentional exposures for self harm and self medicating. We’re starting to see a bump in that 13 to 19 age group, and that has us all a bit concerned," Caliva said.

Caliva encourages families to use the new three-digit phone number for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, 988, if self harm is intended. And she also advises parents to be aware of viral trends like the “Tide Pod Challenge” that can lead to poisonings. As for younger children, calls typically involve pain medicines, personal care products and antihistamines. And there is still a pandemic hangover for very young children, who are attracted to hand sanitizer, which contains a large percentage of alcohol.

"Accessibility seems to have a big impact on whether somebody uses medication or not," Caliva said. "So let’s get them in a lockbox, up and out of sight.”

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Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.