Be extra careful with medications during the holiday season

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — 'Tis the season to be poisoned.

We don't mean to sound like the Grinch, but one accidental ingestion could steal your holiday spirit.

The Tennessee Poison Center took nearly 49,000 exposure calls last year. The second highest number came from Shelby County.

Nena Bowman, TPC's managing director, says this time of year is when poison calls really peak.

"We actually have a lot of calls because people actually get together, have lots of family functions."

Bowman says prescription drugs are the biggest problem.

"Whenever we have big events like Christmas or Thanksgiving, or holidays, everyone's busy, and it's hard sometimes for people to realize that a child has gotten into a pill minder or grandma's or aunt's medicine," she said. "Even a single pill for some of these medications that folks take could kill a child."

Dr. Barry Gilmore is the chief of emergency services at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, where younger kids, ages 1 to 4, make up roughly half the visits for poison injuries. He says the most common pill ingestions are medicines lots of people in our community take — "Medicines that affect your blood sugar, medicines that affect your blood pressure and medicines that affect your heart."

Experts say the best protection is prevention, so keep those purses and pill bottles off the counter and out of children's reach.

Other household items that could lead to poisoning or accidental ingestion are button batteries, certain Christmas plants and ornaments.

"Swallowing anything that has sharp edges or pointy substances could cause a lot of problems, poke holes in the esophagus on their way down and require lots of medical treatment," Bowman said.

If you have any questions about a possible poisoning or ingestion, call 1-800-222-1222. Obviously if you're having a medical emergency, call 911.