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Poison Information (Healthtrack)
Prevention Of Accidental Poisoning
Dr. Mohd. Isa Abdul Majid
The Sun, Tuesday, December 19,1995
In 1992, over one million children five years of age and younger were accidentally poisoned. Of these, 100,000 required hospital emergency room treatment, according to information provided by the American Association of Poison Control Centre. Adults may also be accidentally poisoned through carelessness or lack of information.
Accidental drug overdose is a major cause of accidental poisoning. The other two types of accidental poisonings are household chemical poisoning and gas poisoning. Knowing the potential harms of any chemical agents in the home and the correct way of handling them will effectively prevent an accidental poisoning.
Known hazardous materials include pharmaceuticals such as over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, soap and detergents, cosmetic and personalised items such as deodorants and colognes, hydrocarbons such as kerosene, decorative plants, mothballs, insecticides and pesticides as well as paints.
There are two types of information on the proper use of medicines. The first type is drug-specific and applies to a certain group of medicines only while the second type is more general in nature. For general knowledge, we'll concentrate on the second type of information.
Before you use any medicine, there are certain things that your doctor should consider. These include if you have an allergy to any medicine, food or other substances; if you are on a specific diet; if you are pregnant or plan to get pregnant; if you are breastfeeding; if you are taking or have taken any medicines or dietary supplements in the recent past; if you have any medical problems other than the one(s) for which your medicine is prescribed and if you have difficulty remembering things or reading labels.
When taking your medicine, follow your doctor's instruction. Take it at the right time and for the full length of time prescribed. For non-prescription medicine, follow the instruction on the label. Also, don't mix different medicines in one container. It is best to keep your medicines tightly capped in their original containers when not in use. Do not remove the label.
To take medicine safely and get the greatest benefit from them, it is important to establish regular habits so that you are less likely to make mistakes. Before taking any medicine, read the label and any accompanying information. If you would like to have more information, you can consult books and your pharmacist.
Some tips for taking medicines safely and accurately include the following:
Read the label of each medicine container three times - before you remove it from the its storage place, before you take the lid off the container to remove the dose and before you replace the container in its storage place
Never take the medicine in the dark even if you believe you know exactly where to find them
Use standard measuring devices to take your medicine
Shake all liquid drug products before pouring so that the ingredients are thoroughly mixed
If you are taking medicine with water, take a full glass of water. Too little liquid with some medicines can prevent the medicine from working properly and can cause throat irritation if the medicine does not get completely into the stomach
If you are interrupted while taking your medicine, take the container with you or put the medicine up out of reach of small children. When you return, check the label of the medicine to be sure you have the right one before taking it
Unless you have checked with your health care provider, do not crush tablets or open capsules to take the powder or granules with food and beverages. This may affect the way the medicine works.
There are other precautions as well. Never give your medicine to anyone else. It is prescribed for your personal use and may not be the correct treatment for others or may even be harmful to them.
Many medicines should not be taken with other medicines or with alcohol. In any kind of surgery or emergency treatment, tell the physician about any medicine you are taking. If you think you have an overdose of any medicine, contact the nearest poison centre or your healthcare provider at once. Always keep their telephone numbers handy.
Along with its intended effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. It is important for you to know what side- effects may occur and what you should do if you notice signs of them. Ask your healthcare provider about the possible side-effects of the medicines you are taking.
Proper storing of your medicine is important too. Always keep the medicine in its original container and keep it away from heat and direct sunlight. Keep liquid medicines from freezing and do not store medicines in the regrigerator unless directed to do so. Do not keep outdated medicine or medicine which is no longer needed. Be sure that any discarded medicine is out of reach of children.
In addition to medicine, other household chemicals can cause accidental poisoning too. The following guidelines can help you in handling dangerous products.
Lock cabinets containing chemicals, especially those that are coloured. Clean your cabinet out
Replace all torn or lost labels from bottles and cover with a transparent tape to keep them legible. Be sure that all poisons are prominently labeled
Never leave chemicals and prescription medicines such as tranquilisers and sedatives around the house on tables, dressers or in pocketbooks
Never use soft drink bottles to store cleaning fluids, paint thinners or insecticides
Never store polishes, waxes, bleaching agents, dry cleaning fluids, drain cleaners and ammonia in low cabinets or on shelves that are accessible to children
Make periodic checks of all storage areas in the garage, cellar or attic for discarded potential poisons that might attract children
Never leave the room, even for a moment, while using a household product that may be a potential poison
Don't place medicine items together with food. They could be accidentally consumed by children
When using pest control chemicals, for example mothballs, put them in places out of children inquisitive eyes
Use child-resistant caps for poison containers.
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