Don't Play With Poison

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When you hear the word "poison" you may think of a murky substance that kills instantly or produces a slow, agonizing death. If this is your only concept of poison, you could be dead wrong! The real definition is "any substance that can cause an unintended symptom," so there’s a wide spectrum of rare and common every day household items that can turn poisonous through abuse and misuse.

Every 30 seconds a child is poisoned in the United States. Sixty percent of all poisonings occur to children under age six. The most common products involved in poisonings are prescription and over–the–counter drugs, household and chemical products, plants and cosmetics – in other words everyday items most Black families have around the house.

Here are a few childproofing tips for you to utilize:

  1. Never assume that a medicine bottle is safe because it has a childproof top. There’s no such thing! If a child has enough time and interest, they will open it.
  2. Don’t tempt your children’s curiosity with colorful perfumes and cosmetics. If your "strawberry surprise" lipstick looks delicious to you, it does to your child as well. They may eat it if it’s within reach.
  3. Investigate the safety of all houseplants before bringing them home as toddlers are known to put anything in their mouths, even leaves. Some of them are poisonous.
  4. Keep household cleaning supplies and medicines on a high shelf or in a locked cabinet.

When you’ve finished childproofing your home against accidental poisonings, your job is only half done, don’t forget about the garage, storage room or garden shed. If you don’t have children your property is still a risk because children have no respect for boundaries or property lines. Their curiosity will take them everywhere!

  1. Before using indoor or outdoor pesticides, remove children and their toys from the area and keep them away until the area is dry. Never leave pesticides unattended when in use, even for a few minutes.
  2. Never transfer pesticides to other containers – kids may associate the containers with food or drink.
  3. Always store pesticides away from reach in a locked cabinet.

Although most accidental poisonings are among children, Black adults, especially elders, are also at high risk. Mature African American adults who can’t read medicine bottle labels or who fail to follow instructions are at highest risk. These tips may help avoid a tragedy:

  • Turn on a light and wear reading glasses to view the label when taking medicine at night.
  • Always read the medicine bottle label and follow instructions. If question arise, call your pharmacist or doctor.
  • Never mix medicines and alcohol and never take more than the prescribed amount.
  • If multiple medications are prescribed, use a plastic pill organizer to avoid mistakes.
  • Never borrow a friend’s medicine or take old medicines.
  • Be sure to tell your doctor and pharmacist what other medicines you are taking to avoid adverse drug interactions.

If someone is accidentally poisoned, time is of the essence, so be prepared to give emergency personnel the following information to help them help you:

  1. The person’s condition
  2. The name of the product ingested and its ingredients
  3. How much of the substance was taken
  4. The time the poisoning happened
  5. Age and weight of the individual poisoned

Poison control centers nationwide are staffed with pharmacists and registered nurses 24/7. If you don’t have their number readily available, call your doctor, a hospital the fire department or 911.

A few common sense precautions around your home can avoid a tragedy. Be prepared.

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