Children Act Fast … So Do Poisons!

National Poison Prevention Week begins March 19

March 20, 2000

When Sonya Jackson's 2-year-old son accidentally swallowed some of her prescription medicine last week, the mother of six wisely called the Finger Lakes Regional Poison Control and Drug Information Center for help. A doctor at the Center, along with the mother's pharmacist and the child's pediatrician, teamed to answer Jackson's questions over the phone. It turns out the boy only ingested one pill, and wasn't harmed by it. Sometimes, these situations are more serious, and that's why parents such as Jackson depend on this free service.

Jackson is willing to share her tale in conjunction with National Poison Prevention Week, which begins March 19. Created by an act of Congress and signed into law in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, it aims to encourage local communities to raise awareness of the severe consequences that can result from poisoning.

Progress is being made in the quest to educate the public. In 1972, more than 200 children younger than five died from exposure to medicines and household products; by 1996, that number was reduced to 47. During the same time frame, deaths from aspirin among children younger than five have been reduced from 46 to just one.

Children, however, are still ingesting and being exposed to potentially harmful substances. The American Association of Poison Control Centers report that in 1998 there were more than 1 million children age five or younger who were exposed to potentially poisonous substances.

"At that age, children are in stages of growth and development in which they are constantly exploring and investigating the world around them," says Ruth Lawrence, medical director of the Finger Lakes Regional Poison and Drug Information Center and physician at Children's Hospital at Strong. "This behavior is normal and shouldn't be discouraged, but unfortunately, sometimes children see something that catches their fancy, and it goes straight into their mouth."

Lawrence says parents can help prevent poisoning emergencies by keeping in mind several life-saving reminders. Among her top tips: · Keep household chemicals and medicines locked up and out of children's reach.

  • Never let children out of sight when these products are in use - even for a moment.
  • Store all medicines and household products in original containers, away from food.
  • Never call medicine "candy," and avoid taking your medicine in front of children. They love to imitate adults.
  • Clean the medicine cabinet from time to time, disposing of outdated medicine by flushing it down the toilet and rinsing the container before throwing it out.
  • The Finger Lakes Regional Poison and Drug Information Center serves Monroe, Ontario, Livingston, Seneca, Steuben, Wyoming, Yates, Schuyler and Chemung counties. It is based at Strong Memorial Hospital. To speak with a specialist at the Center, call 1-800-333-0542. In Rochester, the Center can be reached at 275-3232, or at TTY number 273-3854. The Center is staffed by physicians who are specialists are in clinical toxicology, and registered nurses and pharmacists are also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They will answer questions confidentially, and the service is free.

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