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MAJOR U.S. HEALTHCARE HMO GRANT KEEPS POISON CONTROL CENTER ON THE LINE, JUST IN TIME FOR POISON PREVENTION WEEK

 PHILADELPHIA, March 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Your two-year-old has just eaten some leaves from your favorite plant. You're not sure how many, but you know you must do something and do it fast!
 You: a) call your husband at the office; b) run to your neighbor's house, startled child in arms; c) hop in the car to drive to the nearest emergency room; or d) call the Poison Control Center.
 If your answer is "d," you are one of more than 100,000 parents or concerned adults who turn yearly to The Poison Control Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia seeking emergency advice on a broad range of potential poisoning problems. The rapid, correct information provided prevents potentially serious effects to poison victims.
 Your call also helps save Pennsylvania users millions of dollars in potential medical bills, according to Dr. Neil Schlackman, a medical director at U.S. Healthcare and a pediatrician.
 It's thanks to U.S. Healthcare, the area's largest health maintenance organization (HMO), that those calls and potential savings can keep coming in. The HMO recently awarded a $650,000 grant to the region's only poison control center, keeping it in operation through 1993, and is teaming with the center to kick off National Poison Prevention Week, March 21-27.
 "The center is on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to service the Delaware Valley. The aim of Poison Prevention Week is to reduce the need for making the call in the first place, by raising general awareness and educating the public about poison prevention techniques," said Schlackman.
 "Over 90 percent of all poisonings occur in the home and over 70 percent of all exposures can be safely and effectively treated at home," noted Schlackman. "The use of the Poison Control Center significantly decreases the use of the emergency room and unnecessary emergency room visits by well over 50 percent."
 In fact, a call to the local Poison Control Center may be more effective than the local hospital. According to a study cited by Schlackman, the regional poison control center is likely to be correct 93 percent of the time vs. 40 percent of the time for local hospitals.
 In addition, with an emergency room visit averaging more than $150, the call is certainly more cost-effective. The more than 68,000 poisonings in 1991 managed at home by Pennsylvania poison control centers resulted in a savings of more than $10 million for health care insurers and Pennsylvania taxpayers.
 The statistics tell the story:
 -- Nationally, the number of poisonings in children under 6 years old is estimated to exceed 2 million annually;
 -- The majority of poisonings, more than 65 percent, occur in children under 4 years of age;
 -- In the Delaware Valley alone, 100,000 residents suffer from poisoning accidents each year;
 -- 3.7 percent of children less than 5 years of age have a poisoning episode each year.
 While not all medicines and household chemicals are poisonous, and not all exposures necessarily result in poisoning, according to the Poison Control Center, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Parents, guardians, baby sitters and other caregivers should follow some basic advice. Keep all household chemical products and medicines out of reach and out of sight of youngsters, and preferably, locked up when not in use. When using these products, never let them out of your sight. Store all medicines separately from household products and store all chemical products away from food. Keep items in their original container.
 Schlackman warns against using cups or soft-drink bottles to hold paint thinner, turpentine, gasoline or other household chemicals. "Children associate cups and bottles and drinking glasses with food and drink," he said. "Too often they can't resist the temptation to take a sip. It's one that could prove deadly."
 What should you do if your child has swallowed a potentially poisonous substance? "First and foremost, stay calm. Not all medicines and household chemicals are poisonous and not all exposures necessarily result in poisoning," cautioned Schlackman.
 He advises: for swallowed medicines or household chemical products, call the Poison Control Center or the family physician immediately. For skin or eye exposure to household chemical products, first follow the first aid instructions on the label, then call the Poison Control Center or physician. If unable to contact either, call your local emergency number (911 in most areas) or the operator.
 Schlackman also suggests that all households keep emergency numbers handy for ready-reference. And, in case of accidental poisonings, purchase a bottle of "Syrup of Ipecac."
 Syrup of Ipecac is a medication which causes vomiting. It is available in one-ounce bottles and can be purchased without prescription at any drug store. In certain poisonings, Ipecac provides a safe and effective means of removing poisonous substances from the stomach before they can be absorbed. "Syrup of Ipecac may be very valuable when used under the direction of a poison center or a physician," said Schlackman.
 "Young children are naturally curious, constantly exploring and investigating the world around them. Unfortunately, what they see and can reach often ends up in their mouths," he added.
 "The theme of Poison Prevention Week says it all: `Children act fast ... so do poisons.' We must assure that we keep their world poison- proof."
 /delval/
 -0- 3/22/93
 /Editors: For more information about National Poison Prevention Week, contact MariBeth McQuaite, The Poison Control Center, 215-590-2373, or Dr. Neil Schlackman, U.S. Healthcare, 215-283-6883./
 /CONTACT: Jill Griffiths, 215-790-3041, or Jana Joustra, 215-790-4223, both of Foote, Cone & Belding, for U.S. Healthcare/


CO: U.S. Healthcare; Poison Control Center ST: Pennsylvania IN: HEA SU:

MJ-CC -- PH013 -- 9221 03/22/93 13:39 EST
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