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Preventing Household Poisonings

More than 90 percent of poisonings occur in homes, and more than 53 percent involve children younger than age 6.

The following steps can help you prevent a poisoning in your home:

  • Never leave children alone in a room with cleaning, cosmetic or medical products. A child can quickly and easily pull allergy pills from a purse or drain cleaner from a grocery bag.

  • Store alcohol and tobacco products out of reach. Both can cause long-term physical damage or death if swallowed by a child.

  • Keep medications, vitamins, and herbal remedies put away. Swallowing vitamin pills that contain iron can be fatal to a child. Many medications are mild to highly toxic and some, such as heart medication (digitalis), anticoagulants (warfarin), chemotherapeutic agents, and others, can be fatal when ingested by children.

  • Be sure you give a child the proper dose of the proper medication. Overdosing can cause serious reactions.

  • Remove poisonous plants. Caladium, castor bean plant (one bean can kill a child), elephant's ear, philodendron, mistletoe, holly, and dieffenbachia can cause skin irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, delirium, and other side effects if eaten by children.

  • If you have gas-powered appliances, check them regularly for carbon monoxide leaks and make sure you have working carbon monoxide detectors in your home.

Check for hazards

Check these locations in your home for hazardous products. Store the following poisonous products securely:

  • Garage. Antifreeze, windshield cleaner, gasoline, charcoal lighter, pesticides, fertilizers, garden chemicals, fungicides, and flea and pest powder.

  • Bedrooms. Cosmetics, cologne, hair spray, nail polish and remover, mothballs, medications, and vitamins.

  • Bathroom/laundry room. Pine oil, drain and toilet cleaners, bleach, disinfectants, detergents, and aerosol sprays.

  • Kitchen. Insect killer, metal polish, alcohol, dishwashing detergent, and oven cleaner.

  • Home workshop. Solder, lead, cadmium, formaldehyde, solvents, paint, and paint thinner.

Cover your bases

Don't rely on just one poison control measure. For safety's sake:

  • Store harmful products out of sight and reach.

  • Keep products in their original containers. For example: Never store bleach or toxic liquids in milk bottles.

  • Use products only for their intended purposes.

In an emergency

If your child swallows a poison:

  • Don't panic.

  • Call 911 or your local emergency number, or a poison control center: 1-800-222-1222.

  • Read the label of the ingested product to the medical specialist.

  • Follow the instructions of the medical personnel precisely. Don't induce vomiting unless told to do so. Vomiting can cause further damage if lye, dishwashing detergents, drain cleaners, paint thinners, and certain other substances were swallowed.