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Tips to Prevent Poisoning in the Home

Poison control centers across the country get more than two million calls a year about potential exposure to poisons. Almost all of these exposures occur in the home and 80% of all poisonings are in children between the ages of 1 and 4. Follow these guidelines to prevent poisoning in the home.

  • Install safety locks/childproof latches on all cabinets to restrict access to children.
  • Store potential poisons including detergents, medications, and chemical products (like pesticides and drain cleaners) out of reach and out of sight of children -- inside the house as well as in the garage or shed. In addition, it's always best to lock them up. Never underestimate your child's ability to climb.
  • Store potential poisons in their original containers. Do not transfer them to food containers like milk jugs, coffee cans, or soda bottles.
  • Keep food and potential poisons separate; store them in different cabinets. Children can mistake the identity of products that look alike to them.
  • Return all products to storage immediately after use. Keep the products and your children in sight during use.
  • Safely discard -- into a sealed, outdoor trash receptacle -- all household products and medications that are old or aren't used regularly.
  • Never mix products; dangerous fumes could result.
  • Make sure medications are in child-resistant containers. Vitamins and supplements also should be out of reach of children. Be especially alert at grandma's house. Older people with hand arthritis may get medication bottles that are not childproof. They're also more likely to leave medicine out in the open.
  • Keep indoor plants out of reach; some may be poisonous.
  • Stay away from areas that have been sprayed recently with pesticides or fertilizer.

Learn the signs of potential poisoning in children, which can include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Dizziness
  • Unconsciousness
  • Foaming or burning of the mouth
  • Cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

If someone has been exposed to poison, call your local Poison Control or the National Poison Control Hotline at 1-800-222-1222. You will be instructed what to do. Try to have this information when you call:

  • Victim's condition
  • Name of product consumed and ingredients
  • How much of the product was consumed
  • When the product was consumed
  • Your name and phone number
  • Age of victim
  • Weight of victim

If the victim has swallowed something extremely toxic and fast-acting, you may need to administer first aid right away. To speed up this process, one person should call Poison Control, while another one takes the following precautions:

  • If poison touches the skin, immediately wash the area with soap and warm water for 10-30 minutes. If there is blistering, take the victim to the doctor immediately.
  • If a toxic substance gets in the eyes, flush eyes continuously with warm water for 10 minutes.
  • If poison is inhaled, take the victim outside for fresh air.
  • If the victim has stopped breathing or doesn't have a heartbeat, perform CPR and call 911 immediately .
  • If the victim is unconscious or breathing is difficult or labored, call 911 .

Note: The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends against using syrup of ipecac to induce vomiting when children swallow a poisonous substance.
 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD on May 25, 2012

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