Preparedness key in poisonings

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— "All kids go through that stage where everything goes in their mouths. It's just a matter of time before it's the wrong thing," said Ron Famiglietti, M.D., from Pediatrics of Steamboat Springs.

"The key in poisonings is preparedness."

Famiglietti spends time at well-child checkups discussing the need for parents of children from 6 months through the toddler years to have a poison prevention system in place. First, he tells parents to have all dangerous products, such as cleaners, soaps, cosmetics, medicines, insecticides and alcohol, placed well out of reach or in locked cupboards. Next, the number for the regional poison control center should be clearly printed on an index card and posted next to each telephone in the house.

"It's not enough to have the telephone book handy. The number can be difficult to locate in the phone book, especially in an emergency," Famiglietti said.

Every parent should also have on hand syrup of Ipecac, a substance that causes a child to vomit when it has been ingested. However, Ipecac should be given only if the staff at the poison control center specifically recommends its use. Some caustic substances, such as gasoline, kerosene and lamp oil, can cause additional damage coming back up. If the child is unconscious, having seizures, or has stopped breathing, call 911.

Some other suggestions from the Rocky Mountain Poison Center and Anne K. Blocker, R.D., in the book "Baby Basics" include the following:

Always ask for safety-lock tops on prescription medication bottles. Always store medicines in their original containers and throw out medicines no longer in use.

Never take medicines in front of children because children love to imitate their parents. If a child is nearby and you are interrupted while taking the medication, do not leave the medication where the child can find it.

Never tell a child that medicine is "candy."

Check the dosage every time you administer children's medication, in a lighted room. When giving the dose, keep the remaining medication out of reach. When finished, return the medication to a child-proof cupboard.

Never store chemicals or medicines in old food containers. They may end up in the hands of a hungry child or an unaware adult.

Shop for products with the least toxins and buy just enough for the job.

Be particularly careful when guests are in your home or you are visiting a home that is not child-proofed. Adults get busy with preparations as well as conversations and can have dangerous items in purses, suitcases and shaving kits.

Be alert for repeat poisoning. A child who has swallowed a poison is more likely to become poisoned again within a year.

The Rocky Mountain Poison Center has a checklist for poison-proofing your home. This guide can be obtained from the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association in Steamboat Springs or by calling the Rocky Mountain Poison Control Center at (800) 332-3073 (available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, free of charge).

Each year, more than 1 million children younger than age 6 are exposed to something poisonous, most often cleaning substances and pain medications. "But," said Famiglietti, "having the system ready is critical. It only takes a couple of minutes to make a difference."

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