Household Poison Safety

I thought I’d get a jump on National Poison Prevention Week which is from March 18 to 24 this year. I had dinner recently with a neurotoxicologist friend who told me the sad story of a child who died from drinking silver cleaner which had been left out when his mom was interrupted while doing chores.

We are so paranoid about child seats and bike helmets, but sometimes we forget the dangers that are in our own closets.

Here are some important prevention tips from the National Capital Poison Center

Facts On Poison Exposures:
• On average, poison centers handle one poison exposure every 14 seconds.
• Over two million poison exposures were reported to local poison centers in
• Most poisonings involve everyday household items such as cleaning supplies,
medicines, cosmetics and personal care items.
• 89 percent of all poison exposures occur in the home.
• 92 percent of exposures involve only one poisonous substance.
• 86.7 percent of poison exposures are unintentional.
• 75 percent of poison exposures involve ingestion of a poisonous substance.
Other causes include breathing in poison gas, getting foreign substances in
the eyes or on the skin, and bites and stings.
• 77 percent of all exposures are treated on the site where they occurred,
generally the patient’s home with phone advice and assistance from local
poison control experts.

Children and Poison:
• 53 percent of poison exposures occur in children under the age of six.
• The most common forms of poison exposure for children under the age of six
are cosmetics and personal care products (13.3%), cleaning substances
(10.7%), analgesics (7.6%) and plants (6.9%).

The Most Dangerous Poisons for Children

The most dangerous poisons for children include the following. Be sure to check the poison prevention tips to protect your loved ones.

Medicines: these are OK in the right amount for the right person. They can be dangerous for children who take the wrong medicine or swallow too much.

Iron pills: adult-strength iron pills are very dangerous for children to swallow. Children can start throwing up blood or having bloody diarrhea in less than an hour.

Cleaning products that cause chemical burns: these can be just as bad as burns from fire. Products that cause chemical burns include include drain openers, toilet bowl cleaners, rust removers, and oven cleaners.

Nail glue remover and nail primer: some products used for artificial nails can be poisonous in surprising ways. Some nail glue removers have caused cyanide poisoning when swallowed by children. Some nail primers have caused burns to the skin and mouth of children who tried to drink them.

Hydrocarbons: this is a broad category that includes gasoline, kerosene, lamp oil, motor oil, lighter fluid, furniture polish, and paint thinner. These liquids are easy to choke on if someone tries to swallow them. If that happens, they can go down the wrong way, into the lungs instead of the stomach. If they get into someone’s lungs, they make it hard to breathe. They can also cause lung inflammation (like pneumonia). Hydrocarbons are among the leading causes of poisoning death in children.

Pesticides: chemicals to kill bugs and other pests must be used carefully to keep from harming humans. Many pesticides can be absorbed through skin. Many can also enter the body by breathing in the fumes. Some can affect the nervous system and can make it hard to breathe.

Windshield washer solution and antifreeze: Small amounts of these liquids are poisonous to humans and pets. Windshield washer solution can cause blindness and death if swallowed. Antifreeze can cause kidney failure and death if swallowed.

Wild mushrooms: many types of mushrooms grow in many areas of the country. Some are deadly to eat. Only experts in mushroom identification can tell the difference between poisonous mushrooms and safe mushrooms.

Alcohol: when children swallow alcohol, they can have seizures, go into a coma, or even die. This is true no matter where the alcohol comes from. Mouthwash, facial cleaners, and hair tonics can have as much alcohol in them as alcoholic beverages.

Household Poisons
The Yukkiest Poisons
These are especially hazardous household items. Buy small quantities. Discard unneeded extras. Make sure they are always out of a child’s reach.

    windshield washer solutions
    drain cleaners
    toilet bowl cleaners
    artificial nail removers
    topical anesthetics (i.e. Products that may be used for sunburn pain)
    medicines, medicines, medicines.
    Did you know that even these common household items can poison little children?
    automatic dishwasher detergents
    furniture polish
    perfume & aftershave
    gasoline, kerosene, and lamp oil
    paint and paint thinner
    alcoholic beverages
    miniature batteries
    flaking paint
    cigarettes, tobacco products
    rat and mouse poison

Pet Poison Prevention Tips:
Your pets can be poisoned too. Follow the same poison prevention tips given for children to protect you animals. The following are some additional poison prevention tips specifically for your pet:

-Never give your pet any medications unless specifically instructed to do so by a veterinarian. Many human medications can have dire consequences to animals, even in small amounts.
-Never give your dog chocolate. Dogs are particularly sensitive to chocolate, and it is considered extremely poisonous for dogs.
-Be aware of you houseplants. Many common household plants can cause kidney damage to your pets if ingested.
Keep all medications out of an animals reach, even they can get into a closed medicine bottle.
-Keep hydrogen peroxide available in case you need to make your animal vomit due to a poisoning. Do not give the peroxide unless instructed to do so by a veterinarian or a Poison Center.
-When treating you animal for ticks and fleas, read all product labels before you begin. Follow the safety recommendations given for you and for the animal.
-Hose-down areas in your driveway or garage in which chemicals have been drained or leaked. A small amount of many chemicals can be fatal to an animal.
-Be aware of neighborhood poisons that may be lurking for your pet.
slug or snail baits put out in gardens
yards and gardens recently treated with insecticides
mushrooms and outdoor plants
rat and mouse poisons
snakes and frogs (frogs may be very poisonous if eaten by a pet)

Finally, Act Fast
What to do if a poisoning occurs:

1. Remain calm
2. Call 911 if you have a poison emergency and the victim has collapsed or is not breathing. If the victim is awake and alert, dial 1-800-222-1222. Try to have this information ready:
-the victim’s age and weight
-the container or bottle of the poison if available
the time of the poison exposure
-the address where the poisoning occurred
3.Stay on the phone and follow the instructions from the emergency operator or poison control center.


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