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Preventing poisonings

March 22, 2012
The Daily News

To a five year old, the similarities between a treat and common household medicines could lead to a deadly decision.

More than 2 million poisonings are reported each year to the 61 Poison Control Centers across the country.

More than 90 percent of these poisonings occur in the home.

The majority of non-fatal poisonings occur in children younger than six years old.

And, poisonings are one of the leading causes of death among adults.

The 50th Anniversary of National Poison Prevention Week is March 18-24, a week designated to highlight the dangers of poisonings and how to prevent them.

Poison control centers around the country have a national toll-free telephone number, 1-800-222-1222.

This number provides everyone in the U.S. with free access - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - to their regional poison center.

Many poisonings happen when adults are distracted for just a few moments by a text message, phone call, doorbell, or something else.

Unfortunately, it also only takes a few moments for a small child to grab and swallow something that could be poisonous. This is why adults must make sure that household chemicals and medicines are stored away from children at all times, and that they know what to do if kids swallow something harmful.

National Poison Prevention Week is an important time to review the dangers of the misuse of medicines and the importance of poison proofing homes.

Children naturally come to mind when we think of poisonings, but children are only half of the cases reported to U.S. poison control centers.

The other half involve teens, adults, and seniors. And these cases are the most serious.

A U.S. Presidential Proclamation encourages Americans to learn more about the dangers of unintentional poisonings and to take appropriate measures to prevent poisonings.

To prevent poisonings, safety experts offer the following recommendations:

- Call 1-800-222-1222 immediately in case of poisoning. Keep on hand a bottle of ipecac syrup but use it only if the poison center instructs you to induce vomiting.

- Keep away from children lamps and candles that contain lamp oil, which can be very toxic if ingested.

- Clean out the medicine cabinet periodically and dispose of unneeded and outdated drugs.

- Keep all medications and hazardous chemicals in original, labeled, child-resistant containers. Lock them out of sight and reach of children. When products are in use, never let young children out of your sight.

- No matter how hard it may be to get your child to take medication, never refer to it as candy. While you may think this psychology works, your child may come across medicines on his own and take them, thinking they are sweet treats.

- Don't take your own medication(s) in front of children. Children mimic adult behavior, and they may copy you by taking your medications, not knowing any better.

- Always leave the light on when giving or taking medicine and, if you need them, put on your glasses before measuring, taking, or giving medicine to your child. While you may think you grabbed the right bottle, you can't guarantee if you can't see. If the label of an over-the-counter medicine doesn't include instructions for your child's age or weight, ask your pediatrician if it is safe to give and, if so, what the dose should be. Do not give a prescription medicine to anyone other than the person it's prescribed for.

- Many adult-strength medicines contain various ingredients that children cannot handle; therefore, never give your child an adult-strength medication or split adult pills, unless directed by the child's pediatrician.

- Adult-strength iron preparations are dangerous for young children. Lock vitamins and supplements out of sight and reach of children, just as other medicines are locked up.

- Always use a measuring spoon or dosing cup - available in most doctor's offices and pharmacies - to give your child liquid medication rather than a common kitchen spoon. Read the label carefully each time you give a dose to be sure you are measuring the correct amount.

- Inspect for imperfections: Inspect medications each time they're taken, or administered to a child. Don't use medications from a package that has been damaged or doesn't look right. If the medicine looks odd or different, bring it to your doctor or pharmacist for review and/or replacement.

- If visiting a home that has young children, grandparents should lock medications safely out their reach and be sure to take all medications with you when you leave. If grandparents are hosting children in their home as guests, put prescription drugs and pill boxes away where children cannot get to them. Some of the medicines taken by older adults are the most dangerous for children to swallow.



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