Almost all poisonings take place in the home. More than half involve kids younger than age 6.
The experts at the South Texas Poison Center, located at UT Health San Antonio, recommends that if you THINK someone has been poisoned, call 1-800-222-1222 for advice and consultation. Don’t wait for the person you’re worried about to look or feel sick before seeking help. And don’t try home remedies on your own.
To prevent poisonings in the first place, here are a few recommendations aimed at keeping your family safe from harm:
- Never leave small children alone in a room with cleaning, cosmetic, laundry or medical products. A child can quickly and easily pull medicines from a purse or drain cleaner from a grocery bag.
- Laundry pods contain strong detergent. They also look like candy to young children. Keep detergent pods out of reach and out of sight.
- Keep alcohol and tobacco products out of reach. Both can cause long-term physical damage or death if swallowed by a child.
- Keep medicines, vitamins, and herbal remedies away and out of reach. Vitamin pills that contain iron can kill a child. Many medicines are mildly to highly poisonous, and some can kill. These include heart medicine, blood thinners and chemotherapy medicines.
- Be sure you give a child the right dose of the right medicine. Too much can cause serious reactions.
- Remove poisonous plants. These include caladium, castor bean plant, elephant’s ear, philodendron, mistletoe, holly and dieffenbachia. These plants can cause skin irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion and other side effects if swallowed by a child.
- Check gas-powered appliances regularly for carbon monoxide leaks. Make sure you have working carbon monoxide detectors in your home.
Check these places in your home for dangerous products. Make sure these products are stored away from children:
- Garage: Antifreeze, windshield cleaner, gasoline, charcoal lighter, pesticides, fertilizers, garden chemicals, fungicides and flea and pest powder.
- Bedrooms: Cosmetics, cologne, hair spray, nail polish and remover, mothballs, medications and vitamins.
- Bathroom or laundry room: Pine oil, drain and toilet cleaners, bleach, disinfectants, detergents, detergent pods and aerosol sprays.
- Kitchen: Insect killer, metal polish, alcohol, dishwashing detergent and oven cleaner.
- Home workshop: Solder, lead, cadmium, formaldehyde, solvents, paint and paint thinner.
Don’t rely on just one poison control measure. For safety’s sake:
- Store harmful products out of sight and reach.
- Keep products in their original containers. For example, never store bleach or toxic liquids in milk bottles.
- Use products only for their intended purposes.
If your child swallows a poison:
- Stay calm. This will let you make good decisions. It will also show your child that you are in control of the situation and that things will be OK.
- Call 911, your local emergency number, or the poison control center at 800-222-1222.
- Read the label of the swallowed product to the healthcare provider.
- Follow the instructions of the healthcare provider exactly. Don’t make your child throw up. Vomiting can cause further damage. This is especially true if the child has swallowed lye, dishwashing detergents, drain cleaners or paint thinners.
For more information on this and other topics, visit University Health System’s Health Library.