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Poison proof your home
You can prevent the number one cause of toddler deaths

The Illinois Poison Center (IPC) is a non-profit health service that provides comprehensive and trusted information and treatment advice on potentially harmful substances via a free, confidential 24-hour hotline staffed by medical experts. You may think to yourself, “I would never get poisoned. I would never need the poison center.” But the call center gets over 100,000 calls each year and that means on average someone is poisoned every 5 minutes in Illinois. In fact, poisoning is the second leading cause of injury related death in the United States overall and it is the number one cause for toddlers.

When most people think of the word “poison”, they think of unusual or esoteric chemicals like arsenic or cyanide. But anything even potentially harmful can be considered a poison. Here are three categories of poisons that you come across every day in your own home:

1. Medications. Prescription medications are the largest toxin category involved in poisoning deaths. Drugs and medicines are ubiquitous. People are taking more medications than ever before: over the counter, prescription, herbals, supplements and vitamins. It is easier than you may think to make a mistake in taking a medication or mixing the wrong medications

together. The very things that are meant to heal us when we are sick can be poisonous or toxic as well.

2. Household chemicals. This category includes things such as cleaning products, pesticides and auto or RV products. When used as directed, these items are safe but accidental ingestion, inhalation or skin and eye exposure can be very serious in some cases.

3. Natural poisons. Some of the most toxic substances known to man come from Mother Nature herself. Some plants, berries, mushrooms, bugs, snakes, reptiles

and fish contain toxins and venoms that can be very harmful to humans and animals.

Now that you know what some everyday poisons are, here are tips to keep you and your family safe from household poisons:

• Always store these items locked out of sight and reach of children and pets.

• Keep chemicals and medications in their original container and never store them near food.

• Never take medicine in the dark.

• Make sure your doctor and pharmacy know all medications you are taking, including vitamins and herbal supplements, so they can be aware of any potential interactions.

• If you have leftover medication, dispose of it promptly: extra, unused bottles of pills in the house contribute to medication errors and pediatric ingestions.

• Read and follow all package directions on cleaning products and pesticides; never mix two chemicals together.

• Most poisoning exposures occur when the product is in use. Always close and put away products immediately after using them.

• If you or someone you know has been exposed to a potentially harmful substance, whatever it is, always call the Illinois Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.

• Specialists at the IPC are health care professionals: physicians, pharmacists and nurses. We do not have any veterinary staff, so for pet poisonings we recommend calling the ASPCA animal poison center at 1-888-426-4435.

It is important to remember that poisoning is a matter of dose, and pretty much anything can be toxic if taken in the wrong amount. Children are especially prone to poisonings because they learn about their environment by touching and putting things into their mouth. And because they are smaller, it often takes a smaller dose to poison a child than an adult. That being said, a poisoning can happen to anyone, and that is why the Illinois Poison Center is here to help. No issue to big or small, just call!

To learn more about the IPC and to take our free online poison prevention training course, visit For more information on poison safety, check out the IPC blog at Write this number down where you can find it easily and enter it in your cell phone 1-800-222-1222.

For More Information:

Carol DesLauriers, PharmD, DABAT, is the Clinical Services Manager for the Illinois Poison Center.

© 2016 Illinois Country Living Magazine.
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