FORT LEE, Va. (March 3, 2011) -- Household cleaners, lawn pesticides, over-the-counter medications and health remedies are common in our everyday lives. But how many of us take the time to read the product labels before we use the product. Every year, thousands of accidents could be avoided simply by reading the labels.

The labels on over-the-counter drugs tell us what the medicine is formulated to do, who should or shouldn't use it or how to use it. The labels on OTC medicines instruct us how to safely use the medicine, the dosage, specific warnings and what ingredients they contain (important for those with allergies).

If we have used them before, we assume the instructions and contents are the same when we buy the product again. This is not always true. Formulations could have changed or the list of medicines that react negatively could be different. It is very important that we always read and understand the labels of OTC medicines.

The same is also true for prescription medicines. Always read the information provided by the pharmacy and read the stick-on labels on your prescription bottle. If there is uncertainty about the usage or labels, contact your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.

A few precautions will assure the safety of you and your family. Always be sure to keep all medicines away from children. A parent or guardian should always supervise the use of medicines for children. Be sure to measure the medicine precisely using the proper measuring tool. Read and become familiar with the labels and warnings. Also be sure to follow labels for pet medicines and products.

Household chemicals and pesticides pose another risk. Reading the labels of these products is paramount in keeping you and your family safe. The labels tell you how the product is to be used, what safety precautions are to be used, including if personal protective equipment is to be used.

The label also identifies the hazardous ingredients in case you have to contact emergency personal for an accidental exposure. Everyone is encouraged to take a few minutes and read the labels of the products you use and you might be surprised to find your assumptions of safe use do not match up with the warnings on the labels.

There are usually safer, greener products you can substitute for the products you use. Look for non-toxic, biodegradable or petroleum-free products. Read the whole label for pesticides every time you use them.

Do not store chemicals in containers children can confuse with food or drinks. Storage in unlabeled containers leads to thousands of accidental poisonings in children every year. Properly secure household chemicals and pesticides out of reach of children to avoid accidental poisonings. Home products also can be harmful to your pets.

The safety and health of your family depends on your diligence. Read product labels with your children. It can instill the habit in them and make them informed medicine and product users.

Post the Poison Control Center's national hotline number, 1-800-222-1222, in an obvious place for reference if needed. If you have questions about pesticides, contact the National Pesticide Information Center 1-800-858-7378.