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Poison Control Calls Due To Supplements On The Rise

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The number of calls to poison centers regarding dietary supplements has gone up from 2005 to 2012. Most of the cases involved children younger than six years old, according to a new study.

This research defines dietary supplements as products that enhance nutrition, including vitamins, minerals, botanicals, herbs, amino acids and concentrates, homeopathic agents, metabolites, constituents and extracts of these, according to CNN.

The scientists used data from the National Poison Data System, where poison control centers submit the calls they get. From 2000 to 2012, there were 274,998 dietary supplement exposures called in to poison control centers across the country, or an average of one call every 24 minutes.

The most common symptoms include rapid heart rate, vomiting, nausea, irritability, drowsiness and dizziness. Some 70% of the dietary supplement poison cases were in kids younger than age six, and 99% were accidental. On the whole, 4.5% of all cases resulted in serious medical conditions, mostly in young kids.

Henry Spiller, lead author on the study and director of Central Ohio Poison Control, said parents should be cautious about leaving these products where children can access them. “Sometimes, parents don’t think of keeping dietary supplements away from their kids, because they’re not medicines prescribed by the doctor. People think of them as natural,” Spiller said.

But they need to be treated as if they were a medicine. Don’t leave them out on the counter. Keep them out of reach.

The two most common ways kids can ingest supplements are while going through the house, or when parents accidentally mistake them for other kinds of medication.

Jeannette Trella, managing director of the Poison Control Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said that many dietary supplements don’t come in child-resistant packages, either. “Parents should look at this as a risk-benefit analysis,” she said.

Spiller said people should reconsider taking supplements. “Just because it’s a natural supplement doesn’t mean it’s safe. I often use the example, technically, that cocaine is also natural. But that doesn’t mean it’s safe.”

The study was published in the Journal of Medical Toxicology.

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