"Parents must assume that at some time their child is going to be poisoned and take precautions," says Dr. Toby Litovitz of Georgetown Hospital's Poison Control Center.

The most important precaution, he says, is taping the local poison control number -- 202 -- 625-3333 -- on every telephone.

Secondly, he says, purchase a one-ounce bottle of syrup of ipecac -- a non-prescription liquid that induces vomiting and is available at most drug stores for about $1.50. But never give ipecac without instructions from a poison control center or physician, he says, since some poisons can be as destructive on the way up as on the way down.

Other precautions:

*Use plastic latches and combinations locks to shield cabinets and drawers from curious hands.

*Don't let kids watch you open them -- they learn fast.

*Don't take medicine in front of children. They are master imitators.

*Don't "double-dose" your children. Check with spouse and/or baby-sitter before giving medicine.

*Don't take poisonous substances out of original containers -- one teenager died after drinking a white pesticide placed in a milk carton.

*Treat iron and Vitamin A supplements like medicine -- many adult preparations are lethal to a young child.

*Remind grandparents and babysitters not to leave medicine where children can reach it -- such as coats, handbags, kitchen or bathroom counters. One study in Birmingham, Ala., showed that 36 percent of 200 poisonings among children involved youngsters who got into their grandparent's medication that did not have the child-resistant caps.