Accidental Poisoning? Call 800-222-1222

Spring is a great time to do some housecleaning. To get a thorough cleaning, you might plan to use some household products to get the job done.

When using products such as liquid ammonia, bleach, furniture polish, garden chemicals or paint thinner, it’s important to keep in mind they’re poisonous — along with many other household chemicals.

If you suspect a possible poisoning:

Call the Poison Help line at 800-222-1222 to talk to a poison expert.

You don’t need to have an emergency to call. Phoning this number will connect you to your local poison control center. Nurses, pharmacists, doctors and other experts specially trained in poisoning answer the phone 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The call is free and confidential.

Signs of Possible Poisoning

The symptoms of poisoning can vary widely and can be delayed by hours, days or months. That’s why it’s highly recommended that you call the Poison Health line or see a health care professional. Here are some possible poisoning symptoms. Be aware, depending on the poison, the symptoms can be opposites:

  • Enlarged or reduced pupils.
  • Excessive drooling or dry mouth and skin.
  • Faster or slower heart rate.
  • Faster or slower breathing.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps.
  • However, some poisons cause no pain.
  • Hyperactivity or drowsiness. Confusion is often seen with these symptoms.

Unfortunately, some poisoning symptoms are the same as symptoms of stroke, heart attack, stomach ulcers, gallbladder problems, hepatitis, appendicitis, head injuries and other conditions. The potential for uncertainty when there’s no time to lose is the reason you need reach out to a professional if poisoning is suspected.

If you suspect poisoning, here are first aid steps you can take to start:

  • If the person is not breathing, call 911.
  • If the person inhaled poison, get him or her fresh air right away.
  • If the person has poison on the skin, take off any clothing the poison touched. Rinse skin with running water for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • If the person has poison in the eyes, rinse eyes with running water for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Do not use activated charcoal when you think someone may have been poisoned.

When You Call Poison Help

Stay calm. Not all medicines, chemicals or household products are poisonous. Not all contact with poison results in poisoning.

  • Make sure to have the container of the product you think caused the poisoning nearby. The label has important information.

Be ready (if you can) to tell the expert on the phone:

  • The exposed person’s age and weight.
  • Known health conditions or problems.
  • The product involved.
  • How the product contacted the person (for example, by mouth, by inhaling, through the skin or through the eyes).
  • How long ago the person contacted the poison.
  • What first aid has already been given.
  • Whether the person has vomited.
  • Your exact location and how long it would take you to get to a hospital.

How You Can Prevent Poisonings

A little caution goes a long way in protecting the people you care about from accidental poisonings. Follow these tips from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

  • Keep household cleaning products and other chemicals in the containers they came in. Always store them away from food and out of the reach of children.
  • Read and follow directions for use and disposal of cleaning products. Never mix chemicals, including household cleaners or detergents.
  • Turn on fans and open windows when using chemicals or household cleaners. Don’t sniff containers to see what’s inside.
  • When spraying chemicals, point the nozzle away from people and pets.
  • Bug and weed killers can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled and can be poisonous too. Even leather shoes and gloves don’t offer full protection, so stay away from areas that have been sprayed for at least an hour.
  • Wear protective clothing when using any spray products. If pesticides are splashed onto the skin, rinse with soap and running water. Also, wash your clothing after using chemicals.
  • Tell your children that they should ask a grown-up if they’re not sure if something is dangerous. Tell them to stay away from things used to clean the house, clothes or car.

Spring is an excellent time to make your home poison safe. It’s also a good time to become familiar with the location of the hospital nearest your home, school or workplace. When you have a problem is not the time to go looking for a health care provider. You never know when getting to a health care professional quickly can be a lifesaver.

Meet the Author

Natalya Puckett, MD is a family medicine physician at Lakeshore Medical Clinic in St. Francis, WI.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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