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Gridley Herald - Gridley, CA
  • Healthy Habits: Poison-proof your home

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  • When I was about 10, my younger sister swallowed a puppy worming pill. My mother called 800-222-1222 — the Poison Control Center — to find out what to do. She told them my sister’s age, weight and what else she had eaten that day, among other things. I honestly don’t remember what advice she got or if there was any treatment, but what I do remember is how calm she was when she hung up.
    More than 3 million calls were made to America’s 56 Poison Control Centers in 2012. You might think that these were all calls similar to my mother’s, but that’s not the case at all. About half of them were regarding children under the age of 6. However, 92 percent of all poison-related deaths in 2010 were adults.
    Poison Centers are for much more than children who get into the cleaning cabinet. During the cold weather, carbon-monoxide poisoning becomes a real danger. Furnaces, water heaters, stoves, ovens, kerosene space heathers, wood and gas fireplaces, wood stoves, portable generators and car engines all produce carbon monoxide. It’s colorless, odorless and tasteless and carbon-monoxide illness has no symptoms or warning signs. In fact, symptoms are similar to the flu or typical viruses like body aches, dizziness, headache and confusion. To prevent carbon-monoxide poisoning, take a few precautionary steps:
    • Have your furnace, chimney, fireplace, wood stoves and flues inspected every year.
    • Ventilate the room when using a kerosene heater.
    • Do not use charcoal or gas grills indoors.
    • Do not use your oven for heating your home.
    • Install carbon-monoxide detectors outside every sleeping area in the house, and change the batteries twice a year. (Easy to remember: Change the batteries when you change your clocks for Daylight Saving Time.)
    Medications are another common source of poisoning. You can call a Poison Center if you’re concerned you took the wrong dose or just to ask questions. There are steps you can take to prevent medication-related problems.
    • Read and follow directions on the medication’s label each and every time you take it.
    • Know how your medications react with alcohol, other drugs, certain foods, other prescription or over-the-counter medications, vitamins or herbal remedies.
    • Turn on the lights before you take medications to be certain that you’re taking the right ones.
    • Safely dispose of old medications (many communities have prescription drug take-back days) and never take another person’s medication.
    Of course, we all think of household and chemical products when we think of accidental poisoning, and those can be dangerous too. The following are some things you can do to keep you and your family safe.
    • Keep substances in their original containers with all labels intact.
    • Store chemicals separately from food.
    Page 2 of 2 - • Read and follow directions on all chemical products.
    • Never mix household chemicals together, as this can cause poisonous gas.
    • Turn on fans and open windows when using household chemicals.
    • Make sure spray nozzles are pointed away from you and not toward another person before spraying.
    • Throw old or outdated chemical products away.
    No one ever wants to have to call the Poison Center, but it’s good to know you can if you need to. The number is 800-222-1222. It’s confidential and open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They are there for an emergency or just when you’re a little worried.
    Like my mom, the folks you’ll talk to are knowledgeable, helpful and will tell you what you need to do. You’ll be calm before you hang up, too. Just like my mom was.
    Betsy Cross is director of development for the Natick Visiting Nurse Association, a nonprofit health care organization providing home care to thousands of people throughout MetroWest, Mass., each year. For more information, call the Natick VNA at 508-653-3081 or visit www.natickvna.org.

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