According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, accidents involving chemicals, medicines or other household items are common. Poison is defined as anything that can harm someone if used the wrong way, by the wrong person, or in the wrong amount. Examples include carbon monoxide gas, personal care products (nail polish remover, makeup, soap, etc.), bleach, antifreeze and batteries.

Winter Cautions

In winter, antifreeze and salt are especially dangerous as potential poisons. Antifreeze has a sweet taste, to which children and animals could be attracted. Even swallowing a small amount can be harmful. Salt or other ice-snow melting chemicals used on driveways and sidewalks can harm a pet or child. Visit the HRSA Website for a list of potential household poisons and guidelines for using and storing them safely.

A poison victim may look, act or feel sick, or possibly not have immediate symptoms. Do not wait for signs — call the Poison Help Line right away if you think someone has been poisoned.

If you suspect poisoning, call the Poison Help Line at:

1-800-222-1222 —OR— call 911

Poison Help Line experts can advise on first aid and other procedures to ensure the situation is handled effectively. But prompt action is imperative. Call immediately.

Use this to help you in the event of a poisoning:

  • If someone is not breathing, call 911.
  • If someone inhaled poison, get them to fresh air.
  • If there is poison on the skin, remove any clothing with poison on it and rinse the skin with water for 15-20 minutes.
  • When calling the Poison Help Line, make sure to have the container and label for the poison substance available so you can relay information about it.
  • Tell the expert on the phone the individual’s age, weight, known health conditions, and how the person (or animal) came in contact with the poison substance.
  • Give information about when the victim came in contact with the poison, if the person has vomited, and how long it would take to get to a hospital. The more details you can give, the better.

Who can be affected by poison?

Poisonings happen to people of all ages, not just young children. According to research, children are more susceptible to poisonings, but adults are also prone. Each age group presents certain risks. Older adults can make mistakes with prescription medications. Children can be poisoned by products they should not have access to, e.g., medications, cleaning products or personal care products. Keep these items out of children’s reach or locked.

How can I prevent accidents?

According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, 90 percent of poisonings happen at home. To prevent these accidents, take time this week to review the products in your home and where you store them. Do a poison control inventory. Clean out your medicine cabinets and get rid of old prescriptions. Don’t discard old medicines in the sink, toilet or trash. Rather, research safe take-back options in your community. Local police departments often offer medicine disposal programs. Check the Drug Enforcement Administration to find a collection site near you.

Again, keep all chemicals, cleaners and other potentially poisonous materials out of children’s reach. Share what you have learned. Educate your children, other family members and friends about poisoning prevention.

Carbon Monoxide Poisonings

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can be fatal. According to the CDC, the main symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are dizziness, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. Fatal accidents commonly occur at night because people can succumb to carbon monoxide poisoning in their sleep without experiencing any symptoms.

Be sure to have a carbon monoxide detector in your home. Change the batteries twice a year (many people do this at the daylight savings time changes). Be cautious with any gas, oil or coal burning appliances, and have them checked and/or serviced by a trained professional periodically. Do not use flameless chemical heaters indoors. Have your chimney checked or cleaned annually to prevent blocked debris and carbon monoxide buildup. Never use a gas range oven for heating — this also can cause a carbon monoxide buildup in your home. Never use a generator indoors. Lastly, never run a vehicle inside the garage, whether the garage is attached or not. Open the garage door for fresh air and leave it open once the car is out to allow exhaust to escape.