By Drs. Sally Robinson and Keith Bly

It's important for dad and mom to remember that not all poisons are in the garage or basement. A number of poisons can be found throughout the house. Small children are both curious and fast, so parents have to exercise special care not to leave dangerous products open or within their reach.

Poison Prevention Week, March 18-24, is a good time to review the safety of your home. Take a tour of your house or apartment to see if some of the following dangerous conditions exist:

· In the kitchen, check that all detergents, bleaches, cleaners and especially drain cleaners, as well as soaps and bug killers, are not under the sink in an unlocked cupboard, but up high in a cupboard with a childproof lock. Products containing lye are extremely dangerous. Don't keep these in your home. Keep alcoholic drinks up out of the reach of children.

· Don't make pill bottles part of the table decorations. Buy products with childproof or child-resistant caps. Opening them should require thumb pressure beyond the ability of small children.

· In the bathroom, besides checking that soaps are out of reach, keep medicines, cosmetics, colognes, toothpaste and mouthwashes out of reach, and preferably locked up.

· Don't leave pills in open bottles or in a dish of "the day's dose of medicine." Make sure all product labels are clear - both on medicine and on products that might be found anywhere in the house. In an emergency you will need to know what product was involved.

· Flush medicine down the toilet after the expiration date has passed. Don't discard it in the wastebasket.

· In the bedroom, remember that perfumes and cosmetics and purses that may contain them probably contain products dangerous to a young child. Don't keep headache medicines, especially gelcaps and other medications that look like candy, on the night stand.

· In the living room, know the names of your plants and whether leaves or blossoms are poisonous.

· In the basement and garage make sure that insect sprays, lighter fluid, paint and turpentine, or other thinners, rust removers, gasoline, oil, fertilizers, antifreeze, weed killer, bug or rat killers, and all other chemicals are out of reach and locked up.

· Homes built or last painted before 1978 may contain lead. Flaking paint on the outside of the house can contaminate the ground, and exposed lead-based paint on window sills or doors can cause lead poisoning leading to brain damage. If you suspect the presence of lead paint, call your local health department.

If you think that your child has been poisoned, call the Southeast Texas Poison Center at 1-800-POISON1. Do not use syrup of ipecac before calling and being directed to do so by the Poison Center or your family physician.
Dr. Sally Robinson is a pediatrician in the division of children's special services at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. She teaches medical students about caring for children with chronic medical conditions. Dr. Keith Bly is a hospitalist and assistant professor of pediatrics at UTMB.

The Your Health column is written by health and medical experts at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. The column focuses on topical health issues that we believe are of interest to your readers. It is e-mailed every Tuesday. If you have any questions about the column, or would like to suggest topics, please contact John Koloen, media relations specialist, at (409) 772-8790 or email jskoloen@utmb.edu.