National Poison Prevention Week

Would you know what to do if someone you know had been poisoned?  

What if a child mistook a laundry pod for candy? Or an older adult had trouble seeing a label and mixed two household cleaners together, creating a poison gas?  

The answer if you believe someone has been poisoned is to call 911 or a poison control center at 800-222-1222. In Virginia, one of two poison centers located at Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia will give advice for a range of poisons. If you know someone has been exposed to poison, but are not sure they have been poisoned, it’s still important to call.   

Next week, the third full week of March, is National Poison Prevention Week. The goal each year is to raise awareness of poisoning prevention and what to do if someone you know has been poisoned.  

According to the National Capital Poison Center, 55 poison control call centers across the U.S. took more than 2.1 million calls for help, or about 1 every 15 seconds in 2020.  

In Virginia in 2021, 92 percent of poison cases happened in a residence and 74 percent were unintentional, according to America’s Poison Centers. Nearly 11 percent of the substances people were exposed to were pain relievers, while about 7 percent were cleaning products. Cosmetics and personal care products accounted for about 6 percent, as did antidepressants. Nearly 40 percent of the cases were for children under the age of 5.  

Common household items can poison children, including medicines, pesticides, car fluids, such as windshield washer fluid and antifreeze; household chemicals, such as drain cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, laundry detergent and paint thinner; alcoholic beverages and certain types of plants. To learn more, visit the Virginia Poison Center or the Blue Ridge Poison Centers’ websites.   

You can help keep young children safe by acting on the phrase, “put your medicines up and away and out of sight.”  

What else can you do?  Here are a few tips:   

Prevent children from being poisoned:  

  • Use child-resistant closures on medicines and dangerous household products. 
  • Lock medicines and dangerous household products up high for children.   
  • Keep products, including household products, in their original containers. 
  • Store food and household products in different areas to avoid confusing the two. 
  • Take medicine where children can’t watch. They learn by imitating adults. 
  • Teach children to always ask before eating or drinking anything. 

Prevent adults from being poisoned:  

  • Ask your pharmacist before taking a new drug to avoid drug interactions. 
  • Read the label before taking medicine or using a household product. Turn on the light and put on your glasses if you need to read. 
  • Take medicines exactly as your doctor orders. Your pharmacist or other health care provider can help you figure out the best way to keep your drugs organized. 
  • Only take medicine prescribed for you! If possible, have all prescriptions filled by the same pharmacy. 
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms. 
  • Do NOT mix household products together. You could make a poisonous gas. 


Download poison prevention tip cards for children and adults, get statistics from poison centers, watch videos and learn more at the following sites:  

VDH Poison Prevention page 

America’s Poison Centers 

Virginia Poison Center 

Blue Ridge Poison Center 

Health Resources & Services Administration  

Brain Injury Awareness Month

You may have heard a lot about brain injuries in the last few years, especially among members of the military and athletes. Brain injuries can happen to anyone at any age and can have many causes. March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. It’s a time to recognize those with brain injuries, encourage them to share their stories and let them know they are not alone. 

Acquired brain injury is an injury to the brain that did not happen during birth, wasn’t present from birth, is not inherited and is not degenerative, according to the Brain Injury Association of America. There are two types of brain injury: traumatic and non-traumatic.  

Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, can cause your brain to function in a different way. It happens when you fall, something hits your head or penetrates your skull.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 64,000 TBI-related deaths in the U.S. in 2020. That breaks down to about 176 a day.  

Did you know that there are more groups at higher risk for TBI? Racial and ethnic minorities, people who experience homelessness, people in correctional and detention facilities, and people who survive intimate partner violence are more likely to be affected. 

At the Virginia Department of Health, the Injury Prevention Program’s goal is to prevent TBI through proven ways of preventing, diagnosing and managing concussions. There are ways parents can help children avoid concussions. There also are steps to take to prevent children and older adults from falling.  

Brain injuries can be complex. There is a lot of information available to learn more, help prevent injury or to support someone living with a brain injury.  

To learn more about brain injuries, prevention, treatment and other resources, visit the following sites:  


Have You Ever Heard of PFAS? Here’s What You Should Know.

Have you ever heard of perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS 

There are more than 4,000 different PFAS chemicals. They are made by humans and usually produced from industrial activity or processes. They were created in the 1940s to help fabrics resist stains, in non-stick coatings and in foam used by firefighters. They have been used in a wide range of products, including carpets, upholstery, mattresses, clothing and non-stick cookware. 

Human exposure to PFAS has become a health concern. Studies are being conducted on the effects of exposure because the substances – sometimes called “forever chemicals” in the media – do not break down easily and can stay in the environment for many years.  

You can’t see, smell or taste PFAS. You can be exposed to them by eating contaminated food, drinking water with PFAS or using products that contain PFAS. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, scientists have found traces of one or more PFAS in the blood of nearly all the people they tested.   

Scientists continue to study the effects of PFAS on humans. So far, studies suggest that exposure to certain PFAS may lead to:  

  • Changes in liver enzymes 
  • Increased cholesterol levels 
  • Increased risk of high blood pressure or preeclampsia in pregnant women 
  • Increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer 
  • Small decrease in infant birth weights 
  • Decreased vaccine response in children  

Most uses of two types of PFAS were voluntarily phased out by U.S. manufacturers in the mid-2000s, but there are a few that continue to be used in a limited way. Because the chemicals used since the 1940s don’t break down in the environment and remain in human bodies a long time, they continue to pose health concerns. 

PFAS can get into drinking water at the sites where they are made, used, disposed of or spilled. If they are used at a manufacturing plant and are in the air, they can get into rainwater. They are carried by the rainwater run-off into surface water such as lakes and ponds or seep through the soil and get into groundwater.  

Public water supplies and private wells that get their water from surface or ground water sources can be contaminated with PFAS. If the water isn’t treated to remove the chemicals, they can get into your body when you drink the water or eat food cooked in it.  

The Virginia Department of Health Office of Drinking Water regulates public water systems that provide water for people and have at least 15 service connections or serves an average of at least 25 people for at least 60 days each year.  

On June 15, 2022, the EPA issued health advisories for certain PFAS in drinking water that are lower than previous advisories. The VDH is exploring how the new advisories can be used to guide efforts to protect the environment, our drinking water and the health of Virginians. 

VDHs Office of Drinking Water is working closely with public water providers to monitor the water that is provided to residents.  

Private well owners can test their wells and can learn more about PFAS in private wells on the Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in Private Well Drinking Water Supplies page. 

What can you do to reduce your exposure to PFAS?  

Because PFAS is so common, avoiding them completely would be very difficult. You can avoid products that contain PFAS such as stain-resistant coatings on carpets and upholstery, water-resistant clothing, personal care products, and cosmetics or eating food packaged in materials that contain PFAS such as some grease-resistant food wrappers or boxes and microwave popcorn bags.   

Dusting can also help reduce the amount of PFAS in your home that could be swallowed, particularly by infants and young children.   

To learn more about PFAS and to read more on what steps VDH is taking to monitor PFAS, visit the Office of Drinking Water’s Frequently Asked Questions.

Good oral health begins in childhood. February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. 

Did you know that good oral hygiene begins before your teeth come in? From the time you’re a baby, good oral health is important for overall health. 

Simple steps such as wiping bacteria from a baby’s gums, teaching children to brush properly and drink tap water with fluoride can help reduce cavities and teaches good habits that last a lifetime.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than half of children ages six to eight have had a cavity in at least one of their baby teeth.  Children ages five to nineteen, whose families have a lower income, are twice as likely to have cavities compared with children from higher-income households.  

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, a time to raise awareness of the importance of developing good habits at an early age.  

Consider these P.E.A.R.L.S. of Wisdom from the CDC:  

  • Protect tiny teeth by caring for your mouth when you’re pregnant. Your child’s future oral health starts with you. 
  • Ensure a baby’s clean gums by wiping them after each meal.  
  • Avoid putting babies to bed with a bottle. 
  • Remember to brush your child’s teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste. If your child is younger than two, talk with your dentist or doctor about when to start using fluoride toothpaste. 
  • Limit drinks and food with added sugars for children. Encourage your child to eat more fruits and vegetables and have fewer fruit drinks, cookies, and candies.  
  • Schedule your child’s first dental visit by their first birthday or after their first tooth appears.  

For more tips, to learn more about fluoride in water systems and to find a dentist for young children, visit the Virginia Department of Health’s Oral Health page.  

In 1952, the Virginia Department of Health’s Dental Health Program began with school-based clinical programs. VDH dental hygienists work throughout the state to provide dental services and education. They work remotely in schools, providing dental cleanings, sealants and education. They also work in Women, Infants and Children (WIC) clinics providing fluoride varnish and education to young children and their families. 

National Children’s Dental Health Month began in February 1941, as a one-day event in Cleveland, Ohio, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). The ADA held the first national Children’s Dental Health Day in February 1949. The single day observance became a week-long event in 1955. It was extended to a month-long observance in 1981. 


Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month is a Time to Promote Safe, Healthy Relationships

Dating violence doesn’t only mean going to school with bruises. It’s not only having a partner who yells at you or belittles you.   

Dating violence can begin with someone who is pressuring you to do things that make you uncomfortable. Someone may ask you to ignore your friends and family. A person you’re dating may ignore you or threaten to leave if you don’t give in to a demand. Someone may text you, even when you have asked them not to. Those things can lead to physical violence and abuse. 

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, a time to learn about healthy and unhealthy relationships and how to recognize the difference. 

In 2019, 7.3 percent of Virginia high school students who participated in the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey said they had experienced physical dating violence, while 6.9 percent said they had experienced sexual dating violence.  

It can be hard to recognize the signs of an unhealthy relationship, especially if our ideas about love come from songs or movies.  

According to the One Love Foundation, unhealthy relationships include the following:  

  • Intensity 
  • Possessiveness 
  • Manipulation 
  • Isolation 
  • Sabotage
  • Belittling 
  • Guilting 
  • Volatility 
  • Deflecting responsibility 
  • Betrayal 

What are the signs of a healthy relationship?  

  • Comfortable pace 
  • Trust 
  • Honesty 
  • Independence
  • Respect 
  • Equality 
  • Kindness 
  • Taking responsibility 
  • Healthy Conflict
  • Fun 

There are lots of resources to help you learn what a healthy relationship looks like. There is also help available if you are in an unhealthy relationship and need to get away.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Fast Facts: Preventing Teen Dating Violence page also offers tips on recognizing the signs of relationship violence and the consequences.  

You can reach out for help to the National Domestic Abuse Hotline: 866-331-9474 or 866-331-8453 (TDD). The line is available 24 hours, every day. A live online chat also is available from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. To chat with helpline staff, text “loveis” to 22522. 

Teen dating violence doesn’t just affect teens. It affects everyone, including parents, friends, teachers and communities. 

Learning about and raising awareness of dating violence is the first step toward healthy relationships.

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is February 7

On National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) we celebrate the progress of Black communities in their fight against HIV along with their strength and resilience. The day is observed each year on February 7.

The day also is a time to recognize the challenges that Black communities continue to face reducing HIV cases. Racism, discrimination, and mistrust in the health care system have made it hard for people to seek testing, prevention, and care services. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Blacks in the United States made up 12 percent of the population but accounted for 42 percent (12,827) of the 30,635 new HIV cases diagnosed in 2020.  Black and bisexual men were most affected by HIV, making up 65 percent (8,294) of new HIV diagnosed among Black people in 2020. To learn more, visit the CDCs HIV and African American People page. 

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day was first observed in 1999 and each year focuses on four things:  

  • Education 
  • Involvement through community prevention efforts 
  • Testing 
  • Treatment 

The theme of this year’s observance is “Together…We Can Make HIV Black History!” A Live with Leadership webinar will be held from 2:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on February 7, 2023. To register, visit the blog and follow the Register Now link. The conversation will continue a discussion from 2022 focused on the goal of ending HIV and the “I am a Work of ART” campaign in which a group of people with HIV, who share personal stories about getting into care and using antiretroviral therapy (ART).   

Questions about HIV? Call the Virginia Disease Prevention Hotline at 1-800-533-4148. To learn more about HIV and National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, visit Want to help spread the word? Use #NBHAAD

New program offers guided activities for American Heart Month

If you’re struggling to keep that New Year’s resolution of improving your health with exercise and diet, we’ve got just the thing: Walk with Ease, a six-week program that provides guided activities and resources through an online portal.

The program, a partnership between the Virginia Department of Health and The Arthritis Foundation, kicks off the annual observance of American Heart Month. 

Walk with Ease, or WWE, is open to all Virginians from Wednesday, February 1, through Monday, March 6. Participants receive tools, including an e-Book that teaches them how to exercise in ways that are safe and comfortable. The activities can be done by yourself or as part of a group. Regular physical activity provides important benefits for your overall health. 

Early data show that heart disease was the leading cause of death for Virginians in 2022. 

What else can you do to reduce your risk? Here are a few tips from VDH:  

  • Choose healthy meals and snacks. Include a lot of fruit and vegetables in your diet, and choose foods lower in sodium and saturated fat. Try some heart healthy recipes and check out the MyPlate resources from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.    
  • Make physical activity a regular part of your day. Adults should get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, such as brisk walking, running, bicycling a week. Learn more about ways to increase your physical activity throughout the day on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s physical activity page.    
  • Take steps to quit smoking by contacting Quit Now Virginia, which offers free telephone or web-based counseling services and also offers Text2Quit support, self-help materials and referrals to local resources. 1-800- QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669) or learn more at the Quit Now Virginia Website.  
  • Check your blood pressure. Read more about ways to prevent and manage blood pressure. Here are some helpful tips for talking with a doctor to manage and check your blood pressure.


You’re not feeling so great. Your stomach is queasy, your head is pounding, and you feel really tired. Or perhaps you’ve been in the bathroom for the last thirty minutes.

Earlier in the evening, you had leftovers for dinner. Afterwards, you mixed up a cake to bake and licked the spoon. Then you played with your pet lizard.

Which of these activities do you think could have caused you to feel sick?

If you said all of the above, you’re correct!

Leftovers that are too old or not heated properly, raw eggs and flour in cake batter, and even handling lizards without washing your hands afterward could make you sick.

Every Friday, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is sharing these tips and more in social media posts known as Food Safety Fridays.

Topics have included safe food shopping and storage, safe meal prep, risky raw milk, and food safety in restaurants.

The goal of these posts is to share information about how to protect yourself and let you know where you can learn more about the causes of food-related illnesses.

Did you know, for example, that raw (unpasteurized) milk can contain harmful bacteria that can make you very sick? Pasteurizing (heating to a high enough temperature to kill harmful germs) milk reduces the chance of illness such as listeria.

You may have heard of such illnesses as Salmonellosis (Salmonella), Listeriosis (Listeria), Norovirus, and Hepatitis A.  But what about Shigellosis, Campylobacteriosis, Giardiasis and Clostridium Perfringens?

These diseases can be found on pets and even in spills inside your refrigerator. Some can make you sick in a few hours, while you may not feel the effects of others for days. Some can be very serious.

VDH has lots of information on about the symptoms of foodborne illness, ongoing recalls, outbreaks, and how these illnesses are investigated.

If you suspect something has made you sick, contact your doctor and report it to the Health Department via My Meal Detective. You can also call and report it directly to your Local Health Department.

You can also learn more about dining out safely, food and milk safety, and find links to restaurant reports and regulations.

Remember to check out the VDH Facebook and Twitter on Fridays and share the posts with #FoodSafetyFridays.

January is Radon Action Month. But what exactly is radon?

Radon gas sounds like a weapon in a superhero movie, but it’s a real-life problem that can cause life-threatening damage to human lungs.

Radon is an odorless, colorless, and radioactive gas that is the product of decaying uranium and is considered the second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking.

The worst part? It could be in your home.

January is National Radon Action Month During this time, VDH emphasizes the dangers of the gas and how to reduce it in water, homes, and other buildings.

The naturally-occurring gas can get into your home through cracks, crevices, and small holes. Radon gas can be inhaled and can cause cancer – especially if you are exposed to it for many years.

Smoking can increase radon risk by as much as 10 times.

Radon also can be found in private wells but is not usually found in public water sources. Systems can be installed to reduce the amount of radon in well water.

So how do you know if radon is a problem in your home? You can buy a test kit or call a professional. Testing is affordable and depending on the findings, radon can be reduced or prevented from entering your home. The average cost for a professional to lower levels of radon in a home is about $1,200, according to the National Radon Program.

Here are some tips for testing your home for radon:

  • You can buy and test your home yourself or hire someone certified by the National Radon Safety Board or the National Radon Proficiency Program.
  • If you buy a test yourself, avoid testing in closets, storerooms, kitchens, bathrooms and crawlspaces. Test on the lowest level of your home that can be lived in. Bedrooms or family rooms are the best places to test.
  • Don’t place your test kit against building materials made of natural rock. Make sure the kit is at least 20 inches off the floor.
  • A test should be done in a space that has breathable air. About 3-6 feet off the floor is best. It should not be too close to walls, windows or other areas where you think radon could get into your home.
  • Try not to test during long lasting severe storms that cause heavy rain, high sustained winds or abnormally low atmospheric pressure.

Want to learn more about radon? Visit the Virginia Department of Health’s Frequently Asked Questions about Radon and explore more related topics.

National Pharmacist Day is January 12th

On January 12, thank your local pharmacist!

National Pharmacist Day. January 12.Anyone who has ever filled a prescription has a reason on January 12 to be thankful: it’s National Pharmacist Day.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were more than 320,000 pharmacist jobs in the United States in 2021.

It’s a good idea to talk with your pharmacist. Pharmacists can talk with you about taking medicines safety and can work with your healthcare provider. They can suggest ways to take medicine and help to manage health conditions. They also give flu shots and other vaccines.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a list of questions that consumers ask pharmacists. The questions cover topics such as medicine side effects, how medicines affect health, and generic brands.

Most people are familiar with community pharmacists who work in retail and chain drug stores. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, other types of pharmacists include:

  • Pharmacists who work in hospitals, clinics and other healthcare settings.
  • Consultant pharmacists who tell healthcare facilities and insurance providers and provide other services. They also may talk with patients.
  • Pharmaceutical industry pharmacists who work in marketing, sales or research and development. They may design or conduct clinical drug trials or help to develop new drugs. They also help establish safety regulations and ensure quality control of drugs.

Interested in more facts about pharmacists? Learn more about what they do at the Bureau of Labor Statistics website.

VDH would like to thank Virginia’s pharmacists for helping address public health priorities.