Accidental Poisonings: Five Tips to Keep Your Family Safe

poisoningMore than two million poisonings are reported each year to the 61 nationwide Poison Control Centers, and almost all happen in the home -- with children under six most often the victims of non-fatal incidents.

Most poisonings happen when parents or caregivers are home but not paying attention, the American Academy of Pediatrics said in a statement, as National Poison Prevention Week continues through March 26.The most dangerous potential poisons are medicines, cleaning products, antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid, pesticides, furniture polish, gasoline, kerosene and lamp oil.

The academy advises parents and grandparents to be vigilant when a change in routine takes place. Holidays, visits to and from grandparents' homes, and other special events can bring a greater risk of poisoning if the usual safeguards aren't used or aren't in place.

The academy offers these safety tips:

1. Store medicine, cleaners, paints/varnishes and pesticides in their original packaging in locked cabinets or containers, out of sight and reach of children.

2. Install a safety latch on child-accessible cabinets containing harmful products.

3. Purchase and keep all medicines in containers with safety caps. Discard unused medication.

4. Check the label each time you give a child medicine to ensure proper dosage.

5. Never place poisonous products in food or drink containers.

With an 80% increase from 2001 to 2006, poisonings are one of the fastest-rising causes of accidental death in the United States, the National Safety Council said in a statement. Drug overdoses have edged out falls as the second-leading cause of accidental deaths, right after motor vehicle crashes.

Unintentional drug overdoses are often related to drugs prescribed to treat chronic pain, according to the council, such as oxycodone, methadone and hydrocodone. Always follow the recommended dosage prescribed by the doctor and don't share medications.

In honor of National Poison Prevention Week, the American Association of Poison Control Centers will soon release free smartphone apps that connect consumers to a poison center. The first app available will be for the iPhone, with Blackberry, Droid and Windows 7 apps to follow.

"We want people to know that their poison center is at their fingertips 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Richard Dart, M.D., president of the association, said in a statement. If a poisoning occurs, call 800-222-1222 to be connected to the nearest poison center.

The association also suggests cell phone users program that number into their cell phone address books or contact lists. The number also needs to be posted near home telephones for quick use by babysitters and caregivers.

For more information, see the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's "Prevent Poisonings in Your Home" and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's video "Prevent a Poisoning."
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