Bleach common in poison call-outs

By Brendan Manning


Rotorua residents - aged between two months and 91 - are seeking help for poisonings after ingesting substances such as bleach, rodenticide and painkillers.

Bleach and party pills are the most "nasty" substances poisoning residents, head of Rotorua Hospital's Emergency Department Dr Mazen Alexan Shasha warns.

The New Zealand National Poisons Centre hotline - 0800 POISONS - received 631 calls from Rotorua residents last year .

More than 560 were poisonings, while 69 were "other calls". The most common Rotorua calls related to miscellaneous household poisons.

Seventeen locals called the line last year after ingesting antidepressants, nine for agricultural rodenticide and 10 for "therapeutic hypnosedatives".

Victims' ages ranged from two months to 91 years - the most common were toddlers aged 24 months.

Dr Shasha said poisonings that made it to the emergency department varied depending on the age group, with paracetamol being the most common.

Painkillers were easily accessible, but luckily there was an antidote available, he said.

However, "there is not an antidote for everything" and some people had allergic reactions, suffered side effects, or worse, had the antidote too late.

"If they come late [the] antidote is not effective, they have already done the damage."

The most common poisonings for toddlers were bleach and dishwashing liquid, Dr Shasha said.

Bleach was "really bad" and one of the most toxic substances a toddler could take.

Depending on how much they took, it could cause life-long damage, he said.

Another poison which had become more common at Rotorua's emergency department was party pills, Dr Shasha said.

"Especially mixing them with alcohol, party pills are nasty."

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, dishwashing liquid, alcohol, 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 therapeutic-related calls included paracetamol, ibuprofen, zopiclone, diclofenac, codeine, amoxycillin, tramadol, aspirin and diazepam.

The most common plant-related calls were because of unidentified plants. Identified plants included black nightshade, arum lily, taro, phoenix palm, daffodil, chillies, kowhai, karaka berries and hemlock - the plant used to kill the philosopher Socrates in ancient Greece.

Ms Shieffelbien said the centre received calls daily about plant-related poisonings. But as the plants couldn't be identified over the phone, callers were usually advised to visit their local garden centre or nursery before calling back.

"The biggest advice that we can give over the phone is to know what's in your garden."

A team of eight staff with health science backgrounds work at the Poisons Centre on a 24-hour roster. The centre is jointly funded by the Ministry of Health, ACC and the University of Otago.

- ROTORUA DAILY POST

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