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DEAR READERS: Spring is here and so is National Poison Prevention Week. This year's theme is a reminder to parents: PUT POISONS IN THEIR PLACE!

It is estimated that 2 million children will swallow a poison before the end of 1991. Poison centers report that 60 percent of the calls they receive are related to children 5 years of age and younger. A few simple precautions could prevent many tragedies:MEDICATIONS: Keep all non-prescription and prescription medications in locked cabinets and return to safe storage immediately after use. The same non-prescription drug that brings welcome relief to an adult with a headache can cause grave illness and even death if it is swallowed by a small child. Familiar containers of aspirin, acetaminophen and antihistamines are often kept in unlocked medicine cabinets, women's handbags or left standing on bedside tables or windowsills. Young children are curious and will eat or drink almost anything - even if it doesn't taste good.

USE ONLY CHILD-RESISTANT COVERS ON MEDICATIONS: Although this may pose an inconvenience to senior citizens, it could save a grandchild's life.

KNOW THE NAMES OF THE PLANTS IN YOUR YARD AND WHERE YOUR CHILD PLAYS: The bright-colored berries, leaves and flowers of a wide variety of common, colorful plants can be poisonous. A child learns with his eyes and ears - and mouth!

GARDENING AND SPRING CLEANUP PRODUCTS: We should always be mindful of the extremely dangerous products we use to kill insects, rodents, snails and weeds. These products are also toxic to humans and are capable of killing. Keep them well out of reach of children and use them with EXTREME care. Keep them in their original containers, with the labels attached, and use them only as directed.

THE KITCHEN, THE BATHROOM AND THE GARAGE ARE THE MOST COMMON SITES OF ACCIDENTAL POISONINGS: Many common household products, such as carpet and upholstery cleaners, rust removers, furniture polish, oven cleaner, kerosene, paint remover and thinner, room deodorizer and mothballs, are poisonous. NEVER store household cleaning products in unlabeled soda bottles or in jars.

WHEN POISONINGS HAPPEN: Call your local poison center's 24-hour hotline immediately, BEFORE following the first aid instructions printed on the product container, if your child becomes ill or exposed to a poisonous substance. Keep syrup of ipecac on hand if there are young children in the home. But use it only when recommended by a trained health-care professional.

And remember, the best antidote for poisonings is poison prevention. Parents and grandparents should be aware that every time they replace the child-resistant cap on a medicine bottle or household cleaner, or return a dangerous product to a safe place, they are saving the lives of their loved ones.

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