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March 14, 2000

Poison Safety Tips for National Poison Prevention Week, March 19-25

Frankfort, KY (SafetyAlerts) - Every 20 minutes, someone in Kentucky calls the state’s Poison Control Center about the possible poisoning of a child.  The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) has estimated that in 1997 alone, more than 2.3 million people reported possible poisonings to Poison Control Centers.

According to the AAPCC, 91.5% of these events took place in the home.  Many of these situations can be prevented if families follow some simple tips on keeping medicine, chemicals and cleaning products away from children. That’s one of the main points public health officials are stressing during National Poison Prevention Week, March 19-25.

"One of the most important things is that when you buy medicine – either prescription or over the counter – get it with child-resistant caps," said Mike Cavanah, the program administrator for product safety in the Kentucky Department for Public Health. "It’s also a good idea to get cabinet locks for chemicals and cleaners. Little kids love to play with pots and pans in the kitchen and they’ll try to get the cleaning liquid out, too."

The most common substances involved in the poisonings are cleaning products, pain relievers, personal care products and cough and cold products.

Here are some prevention tips regarding children from the American Association of Poison Control Centers:


  • Use safety locks on all cabinets. Store potential poisons out of reach of small children.
  • Store all poisonous household and chemical products out of sight of children.
  • If you are using a product and need to answer the phone or doorbell, take the child with you. Most poisonings occur when the product is in use.
  • Store all products in their original containers. DO NOT use food containers such as milk jugs or soda bottles to store household or chemical products.
  • Store food and household and chemical products in separate areas. Mistaken identity could cause a serious poisoning. Many poisonous products look-a-like and come in containers very similar to drinks or food. An example of this is apple juice and pine cleaner.
  • Return household and chemical products to safe storage immediately after use.
  • Use extra caution during mealtimes or when the family routine is disrupted. Many poisonings take place at this time.
  • Pesticides can be absorbed through the skin and can be extremely toxic. Keep children away from areas that have recently been sprayed. Store these products in a safe place where children cannot reach them.
  • Discard old or outdated household and chemical products.
  • Use the poison safety checklist to poison proof your home. Each room in the house has a potential for poisoning emergency.
  • Take time to teach children about poisonous substances.
  • Keep the telephone number of your local Poison Control Center on or near your telephone.


  • Keep medicines out of sight, locked up and out of reach of children.
  • Make sure that all medicines are in child-resistant containers and labeled properly. Remember child resistant does not mean child proof.
  • Never leave pills on the counter or in plastic bags. Always store medicines in their original container with a child-resistant cap.
  • Keep purses and diaper bags out of reach of children.
  • Avoid taking medicines in front of children. Young children imitate grown ups.
  • DON’T call medicine candy. Medicines and candy look alike and children cannot tell the difference.
  • Vitamins are medicine. Vitamins with iron can be especially poisonous. Keep them locked up and out of reach of children.
  • Be aware of medicines that visitors may bring to your home. Children are curious and may investigate visitor’s purses and suitcases.
  • Keep a bottle of activated charcoal, a medicine used to stop the absorption of poison, in your medicine cabinet. Make sure the babysitter knows where you store your activated charcoal. Do not use the activated charcoal unless instructed by the Poison Control Center or your doctor.

Consumers should have the emergency number of the Poison Control Center in their state near at hand for quick reference in the event of an emergency.  Each certified center is staffed by nurses and physicians trained in toxicology.   To find the number to the center that serves your area go to:

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