Poison Prevention


Congress established National Poison Prevention Week during the third week in March in 1961. The purpose of the annual campaign is to raise awareness of accidental poisonings, promote poison prevention, and reduce the number of injuries and deaths attributed to consumption of various poisons. This year, the awareness campaign takes place from Sunday, March 18 to Saturday, March 24.  Unfortunately, poisoning is the leading cause of injury-related death in the United States.

Make Your Home Poison Proof

According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion of the federal government, accidental poisonings take place at home more than 90 percent of the time. The most common places for a poisoning to occur in the home include the bathroom, bedrooms, and kitchen. If you have children, teach them as early as possible to never put anything in their mouth if they don’t know what it is. Below are some of the most common items to cause poisoning in the home along with tips on how to prevent that from happening.

  • Animals and insects: Research information on snakes in your local area to see if any of them are poisonous. Additionally, read insect repellant labels carefully as many can be toxic to humans and household pets in large doses.
  • Art supplies: Certain products used to create art also contain chemicals, so be certain to read the instructions before allowing your children to use them. Anyone using art supplies should not eat or drink at the same time. They should also wash any skin that made contact with the art supplies immediately after use. Teachers and parents should ensure that tables, counters, desks, and counters are clean after use by wiping them down or instructing children to do the same.
  • Carbon monoxide: Carbon monoxide is a deadly gas that produces no color or odor. It typically comes from the furnace, and it quickly depletes oxygen from the body. Arranging for regular maintenance of your furnace and placing a working carbon monoxide detector near the furnace and bedrooms is the best way to prevent poisoning.
  • Chemicals: Store chemicals such as antifreeze in their original container and store them in the garage on a high shelf.
  • Food: Store all food at proper temperatures and dispose of spoiled food immediately. Don’t forget to wash your hands and countertops before preparing food and always uses clean utensils when serving and eating it.
  • Household products: Keep products such as laundry detergent in the original container and store them out of reach of children. Never store a household product in a food container such as a bottle or cup as this could cause young children to assume it’s safe to consume.
  • Medicines: All medication, whether prescription or over-the-counter, should remain in the original container. If you have young children in the home, request that your pharmacist provide medications in a childproof cover. Keep medicines out of the reach of children and never refer to them as candy to persuade children to take them when they become ill.
  • Plants, berries, and mushrooms: Learn which of these are poisonous and teach your children to stay away from them. A good rule of thumb is to avoid any ivy plant with three leaves as it’s likely to be poisonous.

These are just some of the many potential poisoning hazards for children and adults. To learn more about seasonal tips, prevent strategies for all age groups, and how to teach poison safety, visit the Poison Help website hosted by the Health Resources & Service Administration.

How to Respond to a Potential Poisoning

If you’re concerned that someone near you may have ingested poison and that person is not breathing, call 911. Be sure to get the poisoning victim fresh air right away if you think that he or she could have inhaled poison. Remove any clothing that made contact with poison. For poisonous substances in the eyes, rinse the eyes with water for approximately 15 minutes. Never use activated charcoal to treat a potential poisoning. Above all, remain calm as you treat the injured person and call for help.

If the situation is serious but not an emergency, call the Poison Helpline at 1-800-222-1222. The poison control expert taking your call will ask you several questions about the person and what occurred. You should be prepared to provide the following information about the person exposed to poison:

  • Age and approximate weight
  • Any known health issues
  • The product involved in the poisoning and how the person consumed it, i.e., by mouth, through the skin, or contact with the eyes
  • When the incident occurred
  • If the person has vomited or received any type of first aid
  • Your physical location and proximity to the closest hospital

Be sure that you have the container of the product that caused the poisoning near you when you make the call. It provides the poison control specialist with valuable information to help direct your next steps. Renewed prevention efforts and figuring out what happened can come later. The only thing that matters immediately following a poisoning is getting the person who consumed poison the help that he or she needs to recover.

Please note, the information provided throughout this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and video, on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. If you are experiencing relating symptoms, please visit your doctor or call 9-1-1 in an emergency.