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Poison Safety

Each day, we utilize products at home and work that can be hazardous. A poison is anything that can harm you if it is used in the wrong way, in the wrong amount, or by the wrong person. Poisoning is injury or death due to swallowing, inhaling, touching or injecting a hazardous substance.

Common Poison Risks

  • Household products such as bleach, disinfectants, detergent pods, cleaning agents, vinegar,
  • Over-the-counter preparations such as paracetamol, cough/cold remedies, vitamins and iron tablets, antihistamines, and anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Prescription medications such as antidepressants, narcotics, and analgesics
  • Cigarettes and cigarette butts
  • Personal care products, perfumes, and nail polish removers
  • Carbon monoxide gas (CO) (usually from cars and heating devices)
  • Insect sprays, weed killers, and plant food
  • Car care products (such as antifreeze, wiper fluid, and motor oil)
  • Alcohol or drugs of abuse (such as painkillers and cocaine)
  • Plants in the house and yard

Poison Prevention

Be Informed. Teach children about poison safety. Explain the dangers of inhaling or ingesting products. Tell children what medicine is and why you must be the one to give it to them. Never tell children medicine is or tastes like candy.

Be Prepared. In case of an emergency, put the Poison Help number, (1- 800-222-1222) in your mobile phone and display it at home and at work.

Practice Safe Storage Habits. Store the following things in their original containers up, away, and out of sight of children. You may decide to keep these substances in cabinets secured with child-resistant locks; however, keep in mind that there is no such thing as a 100% child-proof lock or container.

  • All medications and pharmaceuticals, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and supplements
  • Household products
  • Tobacco and e-cigarette products, especially liquid nicotine
  • Alcohol
  • Laundry and cleaning supplies
  • Pesticides and insect repellents
  • Button batteries, such as those found in musical greeting cards, watches, remotes, etc.
  • Any type of oil or lubricant
  • Personal care products
  • Other chemicals

Follow Directions on Labels. Make sure to read the label on any potentially hazardous substance or product prior to use, especially before administering medications.

Safely dispose of unused or expired prescription drugs and over the counter drugs, vitamins, and supplements. First read the label for proper disposal instructions. If none are given, you could turn them in at a local take-back program. Another option is to put them in a sealed bag mixed with an undesirable substance, like coffee grounds or kitty litter, and throw them away.

Poisoning Prevention Tips:

  • Buy products that children can’t open easily.
  • Be careful when using medicines, cleaners, and other poisons. Don’t leave them out on a counter or unattended. Be particularly careful with spray cleaners (they are easily accessed by children).
  • Install carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in your home.
  • Be careful when taking or administering more than one medicine. Read the labels to avoid an overdose.
  • Keep purses and bags out of reach of children. Some people may carry common poisons such as hand sanitizer, medications, or cigarettes.
  • Practice safe food preparation and handling to avoid food poisoning.

Poisoning Fist Aid:
Most childhood poisonings can be treated at home with advice from the Poison Control Center. When handling a poisoning emergency, remember to:

  1. Try to stay calm-this will help you communicate with the victim and help providers.
  2. Check the condition of the victim.
    CALL 911 if the person:
    • is unconscious
    • is having trouble breathing
    • has severe pain in the chest
    • shows other life-threatening signs
  3. Call Poison Help (1-800-222-1222) even if there are no signs of poisoning. Try to identify what poison is involved and bring the container or packaging to the phone.
  4. A nurse, pharmacist, or other poison expert will answer your call to Poison Help.
    Be ready to tell the person:
    • Name of the product
    • Amount of product involved
    • Age and weight of the victim
    • Signs of poisoning you notice
    • Whether the product was swallowed, inhaled, injected, or touched
    • Whether the person has vomited
  5. A poison expert will decide if the person is in danger. Most calls can be handled at home. If you need a doctor or ambulance, the poison expert will tell you right away.

Resources: Poison Help: US Department of Health and Human Services, Poison Control Help Line, America’s Best Children’s Hospitals

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