It’s National Poison Prevention Week (March 16–22), and there’s no better time to make sure that your home is poison-free. Sponsored by the Poison Prevention Week Council, the campaign pinpoints poison risk for adults and children. Each year, about 100 children die, and 91,000 are treated for accidental poisoning. According to Safe Kids USA, an organization that works to prevent accidental injuries in children, black children ages 14 and younger have a poisoning death of more than 1.5 times that of white children. And remember: Young ones aren’t the only ones affected by accidental poisonings; adults are at risk too.

You can begin reducing your and your family’s risk for accidental poisoning with just a few tried-and-true steps. Buy medications with child-resistant packaging when possible, but know that they are not completely fail-safe—children often learn how to get past them. Make sure to store them out of reach of young children. Use safety locks to keep kids out of cabinets that contain toxic cleaning products, and always make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order.

To take your poison prevention to the next level, try these tricks:  

  • The dangers aren’t just below the sink. Many people automatically think of bathroom and drain cleaners when thinking about accidental poisonings; however, many of the most dangerous substances are more common items you use on a daily basis. Pay special attention to making sure items such as cosmetics and personal care products, cough and cold medicines, arts, crafts and office supplies and alcohol are also out of children’s way.
  • “Open wide, it’s yummy!” It’s tough to convince children to take medicines; however, avoid calling pills and other medications “candy” in an attempt to make them go down easier. A piece of candy or a cookie after your child takes the medicine is always good encouragement—as long as he or she is aware of the difference.
  • Poisonings can happen at grandma’s house, too. Many parents have routines in place to safeguard their families from poisonings at home; however, many poisonings happen outside of the home when typical safeguards are not in place. Be on alert while visiting friends and family, especially if youth go off to play on their own.
  • Self-medicating while sleepwalking? Don’t do it. When the alarm goes off at 3:00 a.m. to remind you to take another dose of cough syrup, your first thought might be how to get back to bed as quickly as possible. But don’t scramble around in the dark: sit up completely, turn on the lights and make sure you read the label first.
  • Chip away at lead paint poisoning. Black children have nearly five times the risk of lead poisoning as white children, due in part to the fact that lower-income children and kids who live in urban areas are more likely to live in aging homes—which are most likely to contain lead-based paints. To learn more about the dangers of lead poisoning and how to prevent problems, read “Choose Unleaded” in the Winter 2007 issue of Real Health.

Visit to download a checklist for poison-proofing your home and test your poison safety knowledge.  In the case of a poisoning, call 1-800-222-1222 to be connected with a Poison Control Center in your area.

For more information on National Poison Prevention week, visit