Keep Poisons Away From Kids

As part of National Poison Prevention Week, experts give tips on safety in the home

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THURSDAY, March 25, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- This week is National Poison Prevention Week, and it's a good time to take a look around your home to make sure your children won't fall victim to accidental poisonings.

Each year, about 1 million children in the United States are exposed to poisonous substances and about 30 die from accidental poisonings.

About 90 percent of those poisonings are caused by children ingesting ordinary household products or medicines, says Rachel Robinson, director of drug information services at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy.

"When most people hear the word poison, they think of arsenic, strychnine, cyanide, malathion and so on. However, vitamins, cleaning products and even cosmetics can be poisonous," Robinson says in a prepared statement.

She offers the following advice on how to prevent accidental poisonings:

  • Store all substances out of the reach of children. Medications should be kept on the top shelf of a locked closet. If you store household cleaning products in the bathroom or kitchen, make sure they're in locked cabinets or drawers.
  • Keep substances in their original containers. Don't combine medicines in a single container. That can lead to confusion, causing people to take the wrong medicine or incorrect doses. Never store poisonous products such as gasoline, kerosene or antifreeze in old food containers.
  • Only buy medicinal products that come with safety caps, which provide extra protection against curious children. Closely supervise your children when you're visiting a home where medicines don't have safety caps.
  • Dispose of outdated or unlabeled medications. All medicines should be discarded by the expiration date or within a year of purchase if there is no specified expiration date.
  • Even products such as cough syrup and vitamins can be potentially dangerous. Tell your children they should never take these substances without adult supervision.
  • Keep the Poison Control Center's phone number near your telephone. The national Poison Control Center's telephone number is 1-800-222-1222. The national center directs you to the poison control center closest to you.
  • If there is an accidental poisoning, you must remain calm. When you phone poison control, be prepared to provide your name, telephone number, patient's age and weight and symptoms.

Even though your first instinct may be to induce vomiting in the poisoning victim, that may actually do more harm than good. For example, strong acids can burn the throat and vomiting may worsen the damage.

"Do not induce vomiting unless the poison control representative tells you do so. Ingestion of anything volatile, like petroleum-based products, can cause aspiration into the lungs," Robinson says.

More information

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has a poison lookout checklist.

SOURCE: University of Mississippi, news release, March 19, 2004

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