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FOR RELEASE: March 21, 2002
CONTACT: Dick Gunn

New National Hotline Number Saves Lives, Money

A new national hotline number created by Congress to prevent poisonings is saving lives and health care dollars. That’s why parents and caregivers are being encouraged to post the number by the phone: 1-800-222-1222.

The new number was created to provide immediate access to the nation’s 65 local poison control centers through one national number. Thousands of Americans have already taken advantage of the free and confidential service. In addition, for every dollar spent on a poison control center saves nearly seven dollars in otherwise unnecessary medical costs. Because of this, the Oklahoma SAFE KIDS Coalition urges those with young children to keep the number nearby.

“More than three-fourths of all poison exposures can be successfully treated at home with the advice of a poison center, thus saving the time and expense involved in an emergency room visit,” said Martha Collar, coordinator of the coalition, a program of the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Last year, poison centers in the U.S. answered nearly 2.25 million emergency phone calls. More than half of those poison exposures occurred in children under the age of 6, and most happened at home. About 30 young children die each year from unintentional poisonings, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Officials at the Oklahoma Poison Control Center took 46,983 of those calls in 2001.

Childhood poisoning is a hazard often overlooked by parents and caregivers. Commonly used products such as cosmetics, detergents and medicines can be fatal to young children if left within their reach. Even innocent looking items like household plants and vitamin supplements can poison a child in less than a minute.

"Children ages 5 and under are particularly vulnerable to poisonings due to their curiosity and natural desire to put everything into their mouths," said Collar.

Oklahoma SAFE KIDS offers the following tips for preventing poisonings:

  • Keep poisonous products out of reach. Storing potentially harmful products out of sight and reach - in cabinets with safety locks - is one of the best ways to prevent poisonings. When "poison-proofing" your home, get down on the floor to view your surroundings from a child's perspective.
  • Know which household products are poisonous. Something as common as mouthwash can be poisonous due to its alcohol content if a child swallows a large amount.
  • Stay alert while using poisonous household products. Many poisonings occur while adults are using a household product like a bathroom cleaner or bleach. Adults should know where children are when these products are in use. Never leave a child alone in a room with a poisonous product.
  • Never refer to medicine or vitamins as candy. Referring to medicine as candy could cause a child to think that it is harmless or pleasant to eat. Since children tend to mimic adults, avoid taking medications in front of them. Vitamins, particularly those containing iron, can also be poisonous to children.
  • Throw away old medicines and other potential poisons. Discard old medicines on a regular basis by flushing them down the toilet.
  • Keep products in original containers. Never put potentially poisonous products in something other than their original container where they could be mistaken for something harmless.
  • Buy child-resistant packaging. Child-resistant caps do not guarantee that children cannot open a container, but they do deter children and increase the time that you have to stop them before they swallow a poison.

If a poisoning does occur, follow these guidelines:

  • Be prepared. Keep the poison hotline number, physician and emergency medical service next to each telephone. Always keep a bottle of ipecac syrup on hand (one per child) to induce vomiting, but use it only on the advice of a poison control center, emergency medical service personnel or physician. Vomiting can often aggravate the poisoning and cause even greater long-term damage. Also keep a bottle of activated charcoal in your first aid kit.
  • Call for help. If you suspect a child has swallowed something, check his or her mouth. Remove any remaining poison from the child’s mouth, then call your local poison control center, physician or other emergency medical services. When calling, bring the container of the ingested substance to the phone with you.

For free poison hotline telephone stickers and educational materials, contact the Oklahoma Poison Control Center, 405-271-5062.


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