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by Abigail Van Buren

Child's Taste for Toothpaste Turns Her Smile Into a Frown Dear Abby: Recently Our 3-Year-Old Daughter Ate Almost a Whole Tube of a Popular Children's Toothpaste. It Is Attractively Packaged, in a Fun Shape, and Tastes Almost Like Candy or Gum. I Was More

Poison control told us that the fluoride in the toothpaste was a toxic substance -- at least when more than three ounces were consumed at one time by a 33-pound child. They advised us to give her syrup of ipecac (which we fortunately had in our locked medicine cabinet) to induce vomiting. They also told us that the vomiting would probably continue for several hours, along with diarrhea.

It was a long, upsetting night for all of us, but thanks to our friend and the doctors at the poison control center, our daughter is fine today.

Abby, please warn all parents that because a product does not have a warning label does not mean that it is safe for unsupervised use by children. Many household products are often left unlocked in bathroom cabinets and drawers, on counters, under sinks, often by the same unsuspecting parents who carefully lock up their medicines and cleaning supplies.

Please be more careful than I was. And if you don't have syrup of ipecac, purchase some today and post the number of your closest poison control center next to your telephone. -- A WISER MOM IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR WISER MOM: Thank you for your helpful reminder to other parents. Phone numbers for your police department, fire department, poison control center and doctors should be clearly posted near every phone, especially in homes in which there are children. Ideally, children should be under constant supervision. But in reality, nobody can watch children 100 percent of the time.