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Release: March 20, 2001

Specialists at Iowa Statewide Poison Control Center emphasize prevention

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- More than 1.1 million American children 5 years old and younger were exposed to potentially poisonous substances in 1999, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Specialists are placing special emphasis on preventing those dangerous situations during National Poison Prevention Week, March 18-24.

One of the leading causes of poisoning among young children is exposure to common household substances, such as cleaning solutions. "Many incidents happen when adults are using cleaning products, but are distracted by the telephone or doorbell ringing," said Linda Kalin, managing director of the Iowa Statewide Poison Control Center. "In just those few moments, a curious child can be exposed to that toxic substance, which is why it is crucially important that household chemicals and medicines be stored away from children at all times."

Poison prevention specialists say the use of child-resistant packaging is effective in preventing exposure to toxins. Experts also say homeowners should leave products in their original containers, and keep the original labels intact. In addition, periodically clear the medicine cabinet of outdated medications, and always refer to medications as "medicine" when speaking to children, and not as "candy."

If you suspect that a child might have ingested a toxic substance, contact the Iowa Statewide Poison Control Center. "You should keep a bottle of syrup of ipecac on hand, but use it only if the poison control center staff instructs you to induce vomiting," Kalin said.

The Iowa Statewide Poison Control Center is a service provided jointly by University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and St. Luke's Regional Medical Center in Sioux City. Staff members respond to calls from the public and health care professionals regarding poison information and treatment. Specialists at UI Hospitals and Clinics and St. Luke’s sites provide outreach education and training to health care providers.

The new center opened last fall and expects to receive 25,000 calls this year from people seeking information about various poisons and toxic substances.

The combined center answers calls from parents and other consumers in their homes, as well as community hospitals, paramedics and first responders, businesses, group homes, nursing homes, corrections facilities and medical examiners. The center responds to inquiries 24 hours a day and serves all 99 counties in Iowa.

For more information, contact the Iowa Statewide Poison Center toll-free at (800) 222-1222.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.