SEATTLE, Aug. 12, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- In two new data Dashboards, the Washington Poison Center (WAPC) reports increased poison exposures among two age groups: adolescents ages 13-17 and adults 60 years and older. Both Dashboards compare poison exposures that were reported to the WAPC during the first 6 months of 2020 (January 1 – June 30) to those in the first 6 months of 2019. The trends noted reinforce growing concerns of the physical and mental impacts stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, and further reveal the vulnerabilities encountered by specific age groups.
Since 2014, the WAPC has reported an increasing trend in adolescent cases of self-harm/suicidal intent via self-poisoning. This trend continued in 2020, with the number of cases among 13-17 year olds increasing 5%. The majority of these cases occurred in females, and involved common household medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Cases of abuse among adolescents increased 34%, and also frequently involved substances found in the home—the top two substances in adolescent abuse cases were antihistamines with dextromethorphan and dextromethorphan alone.
For adults 60 years and older, reported poison exposures were largely unintentional. Close to half (42%) of cases in 2020 were due to medication errors, such as accidentally taking a double dose of a medication, or taking the wrong medication. As in previous years, adults 60 and older continued to account for a significant portion of all medication errors reported (28%), despite representing only 10% of total cases. Beyond medication-related accidents, cases of accidental misuse increased 35% from 2019 to 2020. The top substances accidentally misused were household bleach, hydrogen peroxide, and other disinfectants—many of these exposures were likely due to COVID-19 transmission precautions and concerns.
"The increasing trends of poisoning and toxic exposures in adolescent and older adult populations are concerning, and also provide important information on the need for prevention education—specifically in vulnerable populations and age groups," says Erica Liebelt MD, WAPC Executive and Medical Director.
The WAPC offers robust education to prevent poisoning in adolescents, older adults, and all other age groups. Visit wapc.org for more information, or contact [email protected].
The Washington Poison Center's toll-free Poison Helpline (1-800-222-1222) is available 24/7/365, and is staffed by nurses and pharmacists with expert-level training in toxicology. The Poison Helpline provides free, confidential, and immediate treatment advice on poisonings, drug overdoses, and toxic exposures.