Hotline deals with 900 local poisonings

A woman who died from huffing LPG gas is the most tragically memorable poisoning case for a Northland paramedic as the scale of the problem in the region is revealed.

The New Zealand National Poisons Centre hotline (0800 POISONS) says it received 1053 calls from Northland in 2012.

Exactly 900 were actual poisonings, while 153 were "other calls". The most common calls from Northland related to poisonings from plants.

Thirty-six locals had ingested industrial chemicals, 29 called due to therapeutic opioids and 11 for agricultural rodenticide.

Victims' ages ranged from one month to 97 years - the most common were toddlers aged 24 months. St John northern district operations manager Wally Mitchell said alcohol was the most common poisoning the ambulance service dealt with.

Dishwashing powder and other household products ingested by young children were also common, he said.

"You get people siphoning petrol, that's an accidental exposure when they've taken a big gulp of petrol. One of the most memorable ones was years ago, a young lady was sniffing LPG and and it had a devastating effect," Mr Mitchell said. "It caused the lining of her lungs to break down very quickly and she died a horrific death right there in front of us."

Poisons Centre operations manager Lucy Shieffelbien said "other calls" related to non-exposure scenarios, including drug information requests, or queries about cleaning up chemical spills.

Nationally, the most common calls to the poison centre were broken down into three categories, therapeutics, plants and household substances.

The most common household substance calls included petrol, Palmolive dishwashing liquid, alcohol, Raid liquid ant killer, bubble blowing mixture, glowsticks, super glue and bleach.

Ms Shieffelbien said many common misconceptions existed around poisonings.

"In the good old days it was 'make the child vomit, induce vomiting' - they used to give you all sorts of nasty things to drink.

"But we don't advocate that now, simply because, if it's something corrosive and it's burnt on the way down and you make a person vomit, it's likely to burn on the way back up again and cause more injury.

"The actual fact of making someone heave can actually make you absorb the poison faster."

Making a child throw up dishwashing liquid could cause it to foam up and get into the child's lungs, she said.

The most common plant-related calls were due to unidentified plants. Other plants included hemlock, the plant used to kill the philosopher Socrates in ancient Greece.

- Northern Advocate

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