Poison prevention far superior to cure

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This week marks the 50th anniversary of National Poison Prevention Week. While many people may think poisonings are no longer common, the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) reminds us that, even in the U.S., poisoning remains a serious concern. As AAPCC s executive director Debbie Carr explains, A poison is any substance that can harm someone if it is used in the wrong way, by the wrong person, or in the wrong amount. Poisoning is a danger for all of us.

Children are at particular risk of accidental poisoning. The organization Safe Kids Worldwide has just released a report indicating that, although the overall children s death rate from poisoning is now only half of what it was in the 1970s, poisonings of children from medications account for an increasingly large portion of such cases. The percentage of child poisoning deaths caused by medications has risen from 36 percent to 64 percent over the past 40 years; now, among children each year, there are over half a million potential poisonings from medications, and more than 60,000 of these result in emergency room visits.

Family members and other caregivers should take note: 95 percent of little ones ER visits due to medication poisonings result from a failure to keep medications out of kids hands, rather than from accidentally giving the child too much of a medication. It s important, then, to ensure that children are not able to access medications on their own. Safety steps thus include storing all medicines including supplements in a locked drawer or cabinet out of a child s reach and sight, making sure childproof caps are on correctly, putting away drugs as soon as the adult is finished using them, and avoiding keeping medicines handy in a purse or bag.

Of course, it is also essential that caregivers be mindful of giving children the correct dosage of their medications. The report reminds those responsible to read label instructions carefully,and to use only the dosing instrument included with the medication, rather than a home utensil.

It s clear that all caregivers need to be cautious about how they deal with children s medications, says ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava. Some medications and vitamins are designed to taste good to children, and special care should be taken with these.

Finally, in the case of ingestion of any potentially dangerous substance, it s a good idea to give the nationwide poison control center number a call: 1-800-222-1222.