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Make sure children have home that's poison-proof

By Richard Harkness
Knight Ridder Newspapers

The recurring theme is ``Children act fast... so do poisons!''

Small children are apt to put anything in their mouths, so keep household chemicals and medicines locked up or put safely away at all times. Be aware of this need during visits to the homes of grandparents and others.

Kids also can be poisoned by the willful sniffing or ``huffing'' of glue, paint, hair spray, air freshener and other household products. These are ``accidental'' poisonings in the sense that kids may not appreciate the perils, so it's critically important to educate them. Learn more by calling The National Inhalant Prevention Coalition at 800-269-4237 or visit www.inhalants.org.

To help poison-proof your home, follow these suggestions:

 Keep household products in original containers. Never put preparations like kerosene, antifreeze, paints or solvents in containers customarily used for food or drinks.

 Keep medications (prescription and OTC) in their original child-resistant containers, and replace the safety caps immediately after use. Kids have been known to thwart child-resistant containers, so keep medicines away from them.

 Clean out your medicine cabinet periodically and safely dispose of old or unneeded medicines.

 Keep foods and household products separated. Poisoning can be the result of ``mistaken identity.''

 Be certain that medicines and household products are put away before leaving the room to answer the telephone or doorbell. Remember that children can climb.

 Be sure that all products are properly labeled. Read the label before using.

 Always turn the light on when giving or taking medicine.

 Children imitate adults, so avoid taking medications in their presence.

 Avoid calling medicine candy.

 In a poisoning emergency, call toll-free 800-222-1222. This 24-hour number automatically connects with your regional poison control center. Be prepared to provide:

 The child's age and weight.

 Any existing health conditions.

 The substance involved and whether it was swallowed, inhaled, absorbed through skin contact, or splashed into the eyes.

 The product label directions on what to do in such cases.

The unguided household use of ipecac syrup (to induce vomiting) or activated charcoal (to soak up an ingested substance) is no longer recommended. Instead, follow the instructions given by the poison control center.

Though it's critical that you know what to do when a child ingests a poisonous