March 11, 2013: Why is poison prevention education important?

Poisoning is the 2nd leading cause of injury death in Tennessee, trailing only motor vehicle accidents and ahead of guns. Education is the key to poison prevention. Since 1962, the President of the United States has proclaimed the third week of March as National Poison Prevention Week to raise awareness about the dangers of poisoning. This year National Poison Prevention Week is March 17-23.


Poison prevention is for everyone, from children to seniors. Poisonings span a lifetime. Tennessee Poison Center has poison prevention literature (brochures, posters, magnets, stickers) available free of charge. Call (615) 936-0760 if you would like to request any of these materials.


Also, a new education program has been made available to address the use of over-the-counter (OTC) medications by 6th graders. The program was developed by Scholastic and the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Below is a description of the program:


OTC Literacy” Educational Program Focuses on 6th Graders  

Tailored to 6th graders, “OTC Literacy” is be distributed by mail and email to over 120,000 teachers, school nurses and PE/Health teachers. The need is clear -- research shows that some children begin to self-medicate as early as 11 years old, and yet, few know how to read an OTC Drug Facts Label and how to use medicine responsibly.  The premise behind the program -- responsible medicating behaviors will lead to better outcomes, including fewer medication errors and overdose, both as adolescents and as adults. The program is being supported by targeted print, digital and social media marketing.  The American Association of Poison Control Centers will be promoting awareness at professional conventions and through the 60+ poison control centers in the country that will engage in community-level education.  


The “OTC Literacy” program was developed by Scholastic, a company with a strong national presence in schools and with proven success in the development / adoption of supplemental curriculum and the American Association of Poison Control Centers, with support from McNeil Consumer Healthcare. In addition to the feedback received at the expert roundtable, the program was tested qualitatively with teachers and students, and is also being tested quantitatively at 18 schools with over 1,500 students in an IRB-approved research study.


Here is the web site for downloading the lessons and teaching tools:


Thank you for your help in preventing poisonings in Tennessee! 


This question prepared by:  Josephine Darwin, Director of Community Outreach, Tennessee Poison Center


I am interested in any questions you would like answered in the Question of the Week.  Please email me with any suggestion at


Donna Seger, MD

Medical Director

Tennessee Poison Center

Poison Help Hotline: 1-800-222-1222