Poison Control 101: How to Keep Kids Safe

It can happen in an instant. You dash to answer the phone or the door and you come back to find your child has swallowed something potentially poisonous. In fact, most childhood poisonings happen when a parent or caregiver is home but gets distracted for one reason or another. The good news is that poisoning can be prevented. Here's how.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every day, 374 children in the United States ages 0 to 19 are treated in an emergency department, and two children die, as a result of being poisoned. Common household products that could be dangerous to children include:

  • Antifreeze
  • Windshield washer solutions
  • Drain cleaner
  • Cleaning substances, including toilet bowl cleaners
  • Insecticides
  • Cosmetics and personal care products (perfume, aftershave, mouthwash)
  • Topical anesthetics (i.e. products that may be used for sunburn pain)
  • Medicines (pain medicine, fever reducers, cough and cold preparations, antihistamines,
  • Gastrointestinal preparations)
  • Detergents-laundry and dishwasher
  • Furniture polish
  • Gasoline, kerosene, and lamp oil
  • Paint and paint thinner
  • Mothballs
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Batteries
  • Coins, thermometers
  • Plants
  • Diaper care, acne preparations, antiseptics
  • Flaking paint
  • Cigarettes, tobacco products
  • Flea and tick shampoos, powders, and dips for pets
  • Swimming pool chemicals
  • Rat and mouse poison

What to Do to Prevent Poisonings
Put the poison help number, 1-800-222-1222, on or near every home telephone and save it on your cell phone. The line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

And be sure to put these precautions in place:

  • Store all household products and medicines (both OTC and prescription) in a locked cabinet, out of your child's reach. Be especially careful when doing any housecleaning or taking medication that you lock the cabinet after taking out the items you need. Also be vigilant at holidays, parties, and whenever there is a change in routine-review rules with a new caregiver or babysitter or when visiting friends or relatives, making sure potential poisonous products are safely stored away.
  • Always keep pesticides in a locked cabinet or garden shed and keep them in their original containers. Never leave pesticides and other household chemical products unattended when you are using them; make sure to always fasten the top back on securely.

What to Do in a Poison Emergency  
These are the signs and symptoms to look for:

  • Drowsiness
  • Sudden change in behavior
  • Unusual odor
  • Fragments of pills or medicine on lips or clothes
  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Confused mental state
  • Listlessness

If your child exhibits any of the above conditions, follow these instructions from The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):

Try to remain calm. If your child is unconscious, not breathing, or having convulsions or seizures, call 911 immediately. If your child is awake and alert with mild or no symptoms, call your poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

Have this information ready:

  • Your child's age and weight
  • The container or bottle of the poison if known
  • The time of the poison exposure
  • The address where the poisoning occurred

Stay on the phone and follow the instructions from the emergency operator or poison control center.