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(For the week of March 9, 2009)
Poison Prevention Month/Week
by James L. Cummins

March is Poison Prevention Month with March 15-21, 2009 designated as Poison Prevention Week. The third week in March each year is nationally recognized to highlight the dangers of poisonings and how to prevent them.

Over 2 million poisonings are reported each year to the 61 Poison Control Centers across the United States. More than 90 percent of these poisonings occur in the home. The majority of non-fatal poisonings occur in children younger than 6 years old. You have to be extra aware in times of stress or when family activities are taking place. This is a common time for poisonings to occur.

The first step in preventing unintentional poisoning is to keep medications and common household chemicals out of sight and out of reach of children. You should store medications, cleaners and chemicals in locked cabinets and on higher shelves. Special locks and safety latches are available for cabinets and drawers.

If there are young children in your home, always ask your pharmacist for child-proof containers. One should never refer to medication as candy and don't make a game of taking medication. You should not let children play with a medication container, even if it is empty. Always discard all old medications by flushing them down the toilet. You should teach children to ask an adult before putting anything into their mouths and since children like to imitate adults, avoid taking medications in front of them.

Never store chemicals or cleaning products in unmarked containers or food and beverage containers. There are many colorful drinking products on the market and each year thousands of children and adults mistake poisonous chemicals for what they thought was a harmless drink of lemonade or juice. One such chemical, anti-freeze, resembles some of the drinks on the shelves today because of its sweet taste and its lovely color.

There are a number of indoor and outdoor plants that can be poisonous also. Check with your local library for books on poisonous plants or your plant nursery for help with identifying what may be harmful.

Some pharmacies stock poison first aid kits. These kits contain syrup of ipecac, activated charcoal and Epsom salts. You would use these products only after seeking professional advice as to whether to induce vomiting or not. NEVER treat your child unless you have spoken to a poison control center, your physician or hospital emergency room first.

The number to the Poison Control Center is 1-800-222-1222. For more information, go to

James L. Cummins is executive director of Wildlife Mississippi, a non-profit, conservation organization founded to conserve, restore and enhance fish, wildlife and plant resources throughout Mississippi.