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How to Keep Your Family Safe From Accidental Poisoning

Did you know that more than 90% of poisonings happen in people’s homes? Did you know that half of all poison exposures involve children under six?

A couple of weeks ago my curious three year-old found an empty medicine bottle that my husband was saving to use as a geocache. When we refused his request to teach him how to open the child proof lock, he took it upon himself to figure it out. It took him all of five minutes to come back to us with the cap on one hand and the bottle on the other.

Although I try to keep all my medicine bottles safely stored high up and away from little hands, this was definitely a wake up call for me. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, “60,000 young children end up in the emergency room every year because they got into medicine while their parent or caregiver was not looking.”

This week is National Poison Prevention Week, a nationwide effort to raise awareness and prevent accidental poisonings. Considering my recent experience with the medicine bottle, I thought this was as good a time as ever to brush up on safety measures and emergency procedures related to poisoning.

Today, I will be sharing with you a little bit of what I learned, plus some resources, so that together we can be proactive in keeping our families safe from accidental poisoning.



  • Always keep medicine in their original bottles, properly labeled, and out of reach of children.
  • NEVER tell children that medicine is candy so they will take it, even if the child does not like it.
  • Remind your house guests to keep purses, bags, or coats that have medicines away and out of sight when they are at your home.
  • Have a carbon monoxide detector in your home preferably in the vicinity of bedrooms and furnaces
  • Keep all household and chemical products in their original containers.
  • Do not use food containers (bottles or cups) to store household cleaners or other products.
  • Keep laundry products out of reach of children.
  • Know what poisonous snakes live in your area and wear appropriate attire when hiking outdoors.
  • Check the label on insect repellent for instructions and remember that most contain DEET, which can be poisonous in large quantities.


Emergency Response

If you suspect someone may have been poisoned here is what you can do:

  1. If the person is unconscious or has trouble breathing, call 911
  2. If the person inhaled poison, get him/her to fresh air.
  3. If the person has poison on the skin remove any clothing the poison touched and rinse skin with running water for 15-20 minutes
  4. If the person has poison in their eyes, rinse with running water for 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. DO NOT use activated charcoal when you think someone may have been poisoned. (For more information about this click here).
  6. Call the toll-free Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222. This number will connect you to a poison help center where nurses, pharmacists, doctors and poison experts are available 24 hours/day, everyday of the year and can give you free and confidential advice on how to handle an emergency. According to their website, translation services is available in 161 languages. (In fact, you should probably save this number as a contact on your phone right now).
    • Do NOT wait for signs of poisoning before calling
    • Be ready to tell the expert on the phone the following information:
      • The person’s height and weight
      • Known health conditions or problems
      • The product involved (make sure to have the container nearby)
      • How the product contacted the person (skin, mouth, eyes…) and for how long
      • What first aid was already given
      • Whether the person vomited
      • Your exact location and how long it would take you to get to a hospital.


Most of the information above was obtained from the Poison Help website that is maintained by the US Department of Health and Human Services. If you would like to read more on the subject, you can visit their website or check out the resources list below.



What experiences have you had with poisons?  What steps have you taken to prevent accidental poisonings in your home? Share in the comments below.

3 thoughts on “How to Keep Your Family Safe From Accidental Poisoning

  1. I called the poison control center one time. I received very prompt, useful, nonjudgmental advice. It’s a great resource.

    1. Thanks Kim! That is good to know. According to their page, we can call anytime even if it is just to ask questions about safety and prevention. Just out of curiosity, when you called, did you have to go through an automated response system or did a person answer right away?

      1. I got a person right away, and the person who answered helped me. No automated system or transferring my call from person to person. Very user friendly!

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