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In recent years, unintentional poisoning death rates in the United States have increased, largely because of increases in recreational drug overdoses among adults. But accidental poisoning is also a huge risk for children. According to the Poison Prevention Council, poisonings are one of the leading causes of death among adults. However, the majority of non-fatal poisonings occur in children younger than six years old.
Children are naturally curious. But with some household items, a child's determination to check things out can be dangerous, even fatal. According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, young children can be poisoned by:
Although accidental poisonings are always a concern, especially for children under the age of five, precautions at home can help reduce your child's risk.
Iron poisoning is a major concern of child safety experts. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), iron-containing supplements are the leading cause of poisoning deaths in children under the age of six in this country. (Read about "Iron Supplement Warning") It's important to treat vitamins, especially flavored chewable vitamins (Read about "Vitamins & Minerals"), like any other medication; in other words, keep the bottles tightly sealed and store the product out of children's reach.
Remember too that child-resistant caps are just that - child-resistant, not childproof. Other FDA guidelines include:
We tend to store household chemicals in places that are all too easy for children to reach. Some suggestions from the American Medical Association:
The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHSP) says that, among adults, seniors who take multiple medications are at increased risk of accidental poisonings. They recommend that seniors and/or their caregivers:
Younger adults are also at risk of accidental drug overdose. Even drugs that are legally prescribed, or available over-the-counter, can be dangerous if taken in combination, if used in excess or if used with alcohol. To prevent accidental overdose:
If you find that medication is not working, or not working as well as it once did, talk to your doctor; don't start taking more on your own.
When it comes to poisoning, it can be hard to determine exactly what's causing the problem, especially in young children. Unusual behavior, sudden lethargy or an opened bottle of pills are all indications that poisoning has occurred. According to the American College of Emergency Physicians some signs to look for are:
You may also smell whatever the child swallowed on their breath.
If you suspect poisoning, it's important to call your doctor and nearest poison control center right away. Everyone, especially parents, should get these numbers right away. Then write them down and keep these numbers by the phone so they're available for emergencies. There is also a national poison control number, 1-800-222-1222. This number will connect you to a network of 65 poison control centers around the nation. It operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
When you call, be prepared to give your child's age, weight and all you know about the poisonous substance involved. In addition, talk with your doctor about what you should keep on hand in the event of an accidental poisoning. Some poison control organizations suggest keeping on hand activated charcoal (which can prevent the absorption of certain poisons). However, make sure it is always stored out of children's reach.
Some groups used to suggest keeping syrup of ipecac on hand, but that has mostly changed. The American Academy of Pediatrics says recent studies have shown no benefit for children treated with ipecac. Most importantly, do not administer anything to anyone until you've first called your doctor or poison control center, provided them with all the information they need to correctly evaluate the situation, and then been specifically instructed by them to do so. Depending on the type of poison involved and on other factors such as how long it's been since the poison was ingested, charcoal could make things worse.
All Concept Communications material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.
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