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FOR RELEASE: March 13 , 2003
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications

Check for Poisons During National Poison Prevention Week, March 15-21

Each year, children are poisoned by any number of household and personal care products, as well as medicines, vitamins, plants, lead and carbon monoxide. Because children are smaller and have faster metabolic rates than adults, they are at a significantly greater risk of being poisoned. More than 1.1 million unintentional poisonings among children ages 5 and under are reported to U.S. poison control centers each year.

In this state, the Oklahoma Poison Control Center receives 33,814 calls per year regarding human exposures. Of those, 56 percent are exposures involving children under age 5.

“Many poisonings can be prevented if parents simply lock poisonous products out of children’s reach,” said Martha Collar, coordinator of the Oklahoma SAFE KIDS Coalition, a program of the Oklahoma State Department of Health. “But parents and caregivers should also be prepared in the event of a poisoning. Knowing the Poison Control Center’s national toll-free number - 1-800-222-1222 - could spare precious minutes that may mean the difference between life and death for a child.”

In observance of this year’s Poison Prevention Week theme - “Children Act Fast…So Do Poisons!” - the SAFE KIDS offers these poison prevention tips:

  • Keep poisonous products locked out of reach.
  • 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. Check your garage, basement and other common storage areas for cleaning and work supplies that you do not use or no longer need.
  • Beware of certain cosmetics and personal products. In addition to medicines, children may be tempted to taste cosmetics and personal care products. Store items such as after-shave, cologne, perfume, hair spray, shampoo, and nail polish remover out of reach.
  • 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.
  • Keep poisonous plants out of reach. Learn which plants in and around your house are poisonous, and either remove them or make them inaccessible to children.
  • Teach children never to put leaves, stems, bark, seeds, nuts or berries from any plant into their mouths. Household plants that are often involved with poisonings are dumbcane or dieffenbachia, philodendron and pothos or devil's ivy.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors in the home. Install CO detectors in your home in every sleeping area, and on the ceiling at least 15 feet from fuel-burning appliances. Ensure that space heaters, furnaces, fireplaces and wood-burning stoves are vented properly and inspected annually. If your family experiences symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning (often similar to flu symptoms) get into fresh air and call for medical help immediately.
  • If your home was built before 1978, have it tested for lead-based paint. It is estimated that 890,000 children between the ages of 1 and 5 have elevated blood lead levels from ingesting dust from deteriorating lead-based paint and other sources of lead. Cover lead paint with a sealant or hire a professional abatement company to remove the paint. Wash children’s hands and faces, as wells as toys and pacifiers, frequently to reduce the risk of ingesting lead-contaminated dust.
  • Teach grandparents and relatives to take precautions. Grandparents' medicines can be very dangerous for children. Grandparents should take appropriate precautions while grandchildren are visiting. Before the visit, ask them to purchase a bottle of ipecac syrup to keep on hand, and to post phone numbers to the national poison control center, 1-800-222-1222, and their local physician near all of their telephones.

If a poisoning does occur, follow these guidelines:

  • Be prepared. Know the American Association of Poison Control Centers national toll-free hotline, 1-800-222-1222, that connects you directly to your local poison control center. Poison treatment and prevention experts are available at this number 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Also keep the phone numbers of your physician and emergency medical service next to each telephone. Always keep a bottle of ipecac syrup or activated charcoal on hand (one per child), but use it only on the advice of a poison control center, emergency medical service personnel or physician.
  • 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 the poison control center toll-free hotline, physician or other emergency medical services. When calling, bring the container of the ingested substance to the phone with you. Call even if you are not sure that the child was poisoned. The poison center staff or emergency personnel will determine if you need to do anything for the child. Do not give the child anything to treat the poison until you have consulted a poison control center or a health care professional. Vomiting can often aggravate the poisoning and cause even greater long-term damage.
  • Rinse skin with water. If a poison has come in contact with your child's skin, rinse the skin with running water for 15 minutes. Don't touch the poison. Take off any contaminated clothing. Call the poison control center or emergency medical service immediately.
  • Flush eyes with water. If a poison has gotten into your child's eyes, gently hold his or her eyelids open and pour cool water into them for 15 minutes. Do not let the child rub his or her eyes, and do not put the child's head directly under a faucet to irrigate the eyes. Once again, call the poison control center or emergency medical service immediately.

During National Poison Prevention Week and throughout the year, SAFE KIDS urges parents and caregivers to eliminate hidden household poisons. For more information on poison prevention, contact the Oklahoma SAFE KIDS Coalition at (405) 271-5695.


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