Paracelsus once said, “poison is in everything, and nothing is without poison. The dosage makes it either a poison or a remedy”.
Alice Sebold said, “poison and medicine are often the same thing, given in different proportions”.
Therefore, poisons are substances that can cause damage or death in humans, after exposure, inhalation, injection and ingestion of such substances at a quantity sufficient enough to cause harm.
I. WATER: This is a common source of poison in elderly , water in itself it’s not a poison. However, when it comes in contact with toxic or poisonous substances, it then becomes a poison.
Also, water intoxication has been referred to as water poisoning. This is a situation where one drinks too much water, which could cause a lot of damage to human health. It causes electrolyte imbalance (low sodium) in the body, this can lead to a damage of the brain, loss of consciousness, muscle weakness and even death if not quickly corrected.
This is very crucial when it comes to the older person who is more likely to suffer more from electrolyte imbalance.
• Proper disposal of waste and toxic substances that could contaminate your water.
• Only drink water from reliable and well treated sources.
• Do not keep poisonous substances near the water you want to drink.
• Do not take excess water at a time. Taking about 3 litres of water at a time can lead to water intoxication, wait a minute! You doctors told us we could drink up to 3 litres a day! That is very true, however, that 3 litres is supposed to be over 24hours and not just at once .
• Wash your water storage regularly.
II. FOOD POISON : It is an illness caused by food contaminated with microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, parasites) or toxins.
This could cause abdominal pain, vomiting, stooling, dehydration, and in situation where it is caused by microorganisms it could lead to generalized sepsis if not treated on time. Although, it presents as mild cases often times, and resolves with supportive treatments.
It is also important to let you know, that as people age, their senses of smell become less acute. Hence, they might not perceive it when a food is spoilt.
• Cover foods properly.
• Prevent under cooked meals.
• Meals should be prepared in a hygienic environment.
• Ensure proper storage of food and cooking Ingredients.
• Wash plates immediately after eating.
III. MEDICATION : Poisoning from medication in senior citizens often results from using the wrong drugs, overdose, and multiple drugs (polypharmacy). Kindly read my post on DRUG SAFETY IN GERIATRICS for adequate information on how to prevent this.
IV. CHEMICALS : Chemical agents used at home for cleaning, and other agricultural agents like herbicides and insecticides could be sources of poison to the elderly.
• Always keep their labellings intact.
• Do not store them within the reach of senior citizens.
• Do not mix these chemicals together.
• Ensure you wear protective gears when using these chemicals.
• Do not leave door closed on senior citizens when these chemicals are being applied.
• Do not pour the chemicals out of their original container into another one. If you have to do this unavoidably, kindly label it properly.
V. CARBON MONOXIDE : This is a dangerous gas that leads to tissue damage and even death. It is found in fumes of cars, trucks, kerosene stoves, burning of tyres, fire places and gas ranges. When it is inhaled, it poses dangers, such as chronic heart diseases, lung diseases, low oxygen level in the body and many more.
• Each home should have a carbon monoxide detector, it has an alarm system that will notify you of the carbon monoxide concentration in your home at anytime.
• If you smell any gas coming out of your refrigerator or cooker, do call a qualified technician to fix it quickly.
• Ensure adequate ventilation in your home, especially the kitchen.
• Do not burn coals indoor.
• Make sure your generator house is situated outside.
Please, I would like you to know that all the solutions given in this write up are preventive measures. You should not at anytime treat any form of poison at home whether chemical, food, water, carbon monoxide or medication poisoning. Kindly take such patients to the hospital or call the phone number of the National Poison Centre of your country.
My name is Adesuyi Adesina, the founder and CEO of  Ganat Healthcare Initiative. I am passionate about the care and health of older persons in our society. Senior citizens deserve good elderly care homes and better healthcare services.
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