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Facts About Poisons

Children are curious and love to explore their world. Babies tend to put everything in their mouth. And toddlers grab whatever looks interesting. Tweens and teens may try drugs and other mind-altering substances. Here are some facts about poisonings in the U.S.

  • Each year, poison control centers get more than 1 million calls about accidental poisonings of children ages 5 and younger.

  • More than 9 in 10 poisonings in children are in the home.

  • Makeup and personal care products are the most common causes of poisonings in children ages 5 and younger. Other causes are plants, cleaning products, pesticides, paints, solvents, and fumes and vapors such as carbon monoxide.

  • Another common cause of poisoning in children is medicines. There are many causes of medicine error. A medicine may be given at the wrong time, or the spacing between doses may be wrong. Mistakes may be made in how much medicine is given or in measuring it. You can help prevent these errors by always using the dosing device that comes with the medicine. Talk with your child's healthcare provider about when to give the medicine, how much to give, and how to measure it.

Get your child treatment right away to help prevent most serious problems. But preventing poisoning is always the best solution. Here are some tips to prevent poisoning in children:

  • Safety latches and locks are helpful, but they may not work. Keep dangerous items out of your child's reach. This includes personal care supplies, makeup, medicines, laundry and cleaning products, chemicals, items with batteries, and plants.

  • Be aware that colorful items (such as laundry detergent pods) might look like candy to a child.

  • Read the labels on medicine to ensure the correct dose. Use the dosing device that comes with your child’s medicine. Talk with your child's healthcare provider about when and how to give medicine.

  • Never call medicine "candy."

  • Make sure the carbon monoxide and smoke detectors in your home are working.

  • Never put nonfood items in food or drink containers.

  • Keep household products in a different place from food.

If you have a poisoning emergency, call poison control right away. The national toll-free number is 800-222-1222. Your call will go to your local poison control center. Be prepared for a poisoning emergency by posting the phone number where you can easily see it. Or program it into your phone.

If your child has collapsed or is not breathing, call 911.

Online Medical Reviewer: Eric Perez MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Jessica Gotwals RN BSN MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Paula Goode RN BSN MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 4/1/2022
© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.