Pharmacy Active in Poison Prevention

Contact: Jill Holder

 

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Parents should keep on hand a bottle of activated charcoal (available at most pharmacies) to use in some cases of accidental poisoning. Activated charcoal is a specially treated black powder that absorbs and binds poisons in the stomach, stopping their action at that site.

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 24, 2004) -- Nearly 30 children die every year in the United States due to accidental poisonings. Approximately one million phone calls are placed to Poison Control Centers annually by adults seeking help when children have swallowed something harmful. For these reasons, the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy urges parents to learn how to protect their children from accidental poisoning during National Poison Prevention Week. This year’s theme is, “Children Act Fast...So Do Poisons!”

Medications should be kept in their original containers and never transferred to an empty tin or cup where they could be mistaken for something other than medication.

“Cabinets or other places where medications are stored also should be locked,” said Robert J. Kuhn, Pharm.D., professor, UK College of Pharmacy.

Parents should never tell children medicine is “candy” or tell them it “tastes like candy.” Doing so may mislead a child into thinking that medicine can be eaten like candy. Vitamins are another potential source of accidental poisoning to very young children since the tablets often are brightly colored and can resemble candy.

“All medications, including vitamins, should have child-resistant caps and be kept in a cabinet that’s out of reach for children,” Kuhn said.

Another area of concern is prescription medicines often found in the homes of relatives. Grandparents often have non-child-resistant prescription vials or loose pills on tables, kitchen counters, or in purses.

Parents should keep on hand a bottle of activated charcoal (available at most pharmacies) to use in some cases of accidental poisoning. Activated charcoal is a specially treated black powder that absorbs and binds poisons in the stomach, stopping their action at that site.

Parents need to make sure medicines like aspirin, acetaminophen, tranquilizers, sleeping pills and iron pills are in a safe location. Household products like moth balls, furniture polish, drain cleaners, weed killers, insect or rat poisons, lye, paint thinners, dishwasher detergent, antifreeze, windshield washer fluid, gasoline, kerosene and lamp oil also can be dangerous if ingested.

The following safety rules can help parents keep kids safe:

• Keep harmful products locked up and out of your child's sight and reach and use safety latches or locks on drawers and cabinets where you keep dangerous items.
• Take extra care during stressful times.
• Call medicine by its correct name. You do not want to confuse the child by calling medicine candy.
• Always replace the safety caps immediately after use.
• Never leave alcohol within a child's reach.
• Seek help if your child swallows a substance that is not food. Call the Poison Help Line at 1 (800) 222-1222 or your doctor. Do not make your child vomit.
• Keep products in their original containers. Never put non-food products in food or drink containers.
• Read labels with care before using any product.
• Teach children not to drink or eat anything unless it is given by an adult. Do not take medicine in front of small children. Children tend to copy adult behavior.
• Check your home often for old medications and get rid of them by flushing them down the toilet. Get rid of substances used for old-fashioned treatments such as oil of wintergreen, boric acid, ammoniated mercury, oil of turpentine, and camphorated oil.

Reactions from poison ingestion vary. The child may vomit or appear to be drowsy or sluggish or there may be burns around the lips or mouth from corrosive items. You may be able to smell the product on the child's breath. Some of the substance may remain around the child's mouth and teeth. However, some products cause no immediate symptoms. If a household chemical or medicine has been ingested, call the Poison Control Center at 1 (800) 222-1222. Even if you suspect, but are not sure that your child has ingested a potentially hazardous product, call your Poison Control Center right away. Keep the telephone number on your phone.

If you do have to call a Poison Control Center, have the label of the ingested substance ready. The label provides information concerning the product's contents and advice on what immediate first aid to perform. Tell the expert the victim's age, weight, existing health conditions or problems, if the victim vomited, the substance involved and how it contacted the person. Tell the expert how long ago the product was swallowed, if any first aid which may have been given, and how long it will take you to get to the hospital.


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