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Poisoning

POISON

THE FACTS

Every year over 1.2 million children under the age of five years are the victims of unintentional poisoning. As children have faster metabolic rates then adults, they are at a much greater risk for a lethal reaction to a toxic substance.

Not all sources of poisoning are as obvious as the jug underneath the sink with the skull and cross-bones label on it. Common household and personal products are often to blame. Mouthwash, shampoo, glue, anti-freeze, colored inks brightly colored liquids that children often mistake for Kool-Aid or juice. Prescription medicines and vitamins are often mistaken for candy. It is also common for children to strip the leaves and berries off houseplants or peel lead paint chips from the wall and knaw on them.

When it comes to home safety, one cannot be too vigilante with regards to potential sources of poison, especially if you have a toddler in the home.

SYMPTOMS AND DIAGNOSIS

Most poisons act quickly, which is a blessing in disguise, as symptoms appear in time for parents to seek appropriate medical attention for their child. The exception is lead poisoning, which does not manifest any symptoms for months. By the time the condition is discovered, the child has already suffered some form of brain damage.

Some of the following symptoms are very common in cases of poisoning with both adults and children.

* Sleepiness
* Confusion
* Memory Loss
* Headache
* Inability to walk a "straight line"
* Wayward or circular eye movements (inability to follow your finger with eyes)
* Convulsions
* Vomiting or urinating blood
* Unconsciousness
* Burns or stains around the mouth
* Bad or chemical smelling breath

Also keep your eye out for what are known as "situational symptoms: an empty bottle of pills, a missing bottle of anti-freeze (which tastes sweet to children) or, in the case of an adult, a note or phone call threatening suicide.

PREVENTION

Poison-proofing your home is the key to preventing accidents. There are habits you can adopt to avoid these all too common incidents of poisoning.

* Always tightly close a container of medication after you have finished using it and put it in a place where it can not be found by others
* Never keep medicines on a countertop or bedside table
* When administering medicines, follow the directions on the label to avoid accidental overdosing or poisoning
* When shopping for household cleaning products, look for brands that are the least hazardous for children.
* Never store paints, turpentine or other toxic substances in cups, milk cartons or jars as visitors or children may mistake those items for food and drink
* Never store medicines in the bathroom as the warm, moist environment can cause a medication to disintegrate or "go off". Always store medications as instructed on the label.
* For injuries resulting from sustained use of prescription drugs, see Prescription Drug Injury

PREPARATION

There are many measures that you can personally take to avoid accidental poisonings of loved ones, children and guests in your home.

* Label all containers that hold potential toxic substances, especially if you recycle. If possible keep all substances in the original containers provided by the manufacturers so adults can easily identify them.
* If there are small children around keep all solid and liquid toxic substances under lock and key. These include lighter fluid, furniture polish, kerosene, insect spray, turpentine, paints, solvents, household cleaner, soaps, bleaches, nail polishes, make-up, mouth washes, soaps and any product containing lye or acids.
* Buy medications with childproof caps and keep all medications under lock and key and out of reach of curious eyes. Discard all unused medications that are past their expiry dates.
* Carefully supervise all children the age of 14 in kitchens, bathrooms, garages and if they are assisting you with chores.

WHAT TO DO IF THE UNFORTUNATE OCCURS

If you suspect that someone has been poisoned, the first rule of thumb is to remain calm. If you suspect an overdose, a reaction to medicine or the ingestion of a household product calls emergency services as well as the nearest poison control center. Inform personnel of the person's weight, height and age and describe the nature of the product. Describe the person's symptoms in full detail and let them know whether or not the person has vomited or lost consciousness.

Follow the advice of emergency control PRECISELY and use any necessary knowledge of CPR and First Aid that you might have to aid the patient. Do not induce vomiting if instructed NOT to do so by Poison Control.

As with any accident, your priority is to seek immediate medical assistance at once! If you know what your child has ingested, be sure to any remaining solution or pills left in a bottle to aid doctors in assessing the situation.

 

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