Health Library

Poisoning

Sometimes accidental poisonings can be treated in the home by following the directions from a poison control center or your child's doctor. At other times, your child may need emergency medical care.

Swallowed poison

If you find your child with an open or empty container of a toxic substance, your child may have been poisoned. Stay calm and act quickly:

  • Get the poison away from the child.

  • If the substance is still in the child's mouth, make your child spit it out. Or you can remove it with your fingers. Keep whatever you take out of your child's mouth to help identify the substance.

  • Don't make the child vomit.

  • Don't follow instructions on a product's package about poisoning. This information is often outdated. Instead, call the poison control center right away at 800-222-1222. The center will tell you what to do. 

When to call 911

If your child has any of the following symptoms, call 911 right away:

  • Sore throat

  • Trouble breathing

  • Drowsiness, irritability, or jumpiness

  • Nausea, vomiting, or stomach pain without fever

  • Lip or mouth burns or blisters

  • Unusual drooling

  • Strange odors on his or her breath

  • Unusual stains on his or her clothing

  • Seizures or unconsciousness

Take or send the poison container with your child to help the doctor find out what was swallowed. If your child doesn't have the symptoms listed above, call the local poison control center at 800-222-1222. Or call your child's doctor. Have this information ready:

  • Your name and phone number

  • Your child's name, age, and weight

  • Any health conditions your child has

  • Any medicines your child is taking

  • The name of the substance your child swallowed. Read it from the container and spell it.

  • The time your child swallowed the poison or when you found your child. Also give the amount you think was swallowed.

  • Any symptoms your child is having

  • If the substance was a prescription medicine, give all the information on the label, including the name of the medicine. If the name of the medicine is not on the label, give the name and phone number of the pharmacy, and the date of the prescription. Say what the pill looked like if you can tell and if it had any printed numbers or letters on it.

  • If your child swallowed another substance, such as a part of a plant, describe it as much as you can to help identify it.

Poison on the skin

If your child spills a chemical on his or her body, remove any contaminated clothes. Rinse the skin well with lukewarm—not hot—water. If the skin looks burned or irritated, continue rinsing for at least 15 minutes. Do this even if your child complains. Then call the poison center for further instructions. Don't put ointments, butter, or grease on the area.

Poison in the eye or eyes

Flush your child's eye by holding the eyelid open. Pour a small, steady stream of lukewarm—not hot—water into the inner corner near the nose. Let the water to run across the eye to the outside corner to flush the area well. You may need help from another adult to hold your child while you rinse the eye. Or wrap your child tightly in a towel and hold your child under one arm. Continue flushing the eye for 15 minutes. Call the poison center to find out what to do next. Don't use an eyecup, eye drops, or ointment unless the poison center tells you to do so.

Poisonous fumes or gases

Poisonous fumes can come from:

  • A car running in a closed garage

  • Leaky gas vents

  • Wood, coal, or kerosene stoves that are not working properly

  • Bleach and ammonia mixed together while cleaning. This mixture makes chloramine gas.

  • Strong fumes from other cleaners and solvents

  • Fires

If your child breathes in fumes or gases, get him or her into fresh air right away.

  • If your child is breathing without a problem, call the poison center to find out what to do.

  • If your child is having difficulty breathing, call 911.

  • If your child has stopped breathing, start CPR. Don't stop until your child breathes on his or her own or someone else can take over. If you can, have someone call 911 right away. If you are alone, do CPR for 2 minutes and then call 911.

Child-resistant lids are required on certain common household products

The Consumer Product Safety Commission requires safety caps on a variety of household products. The products are all oily hydrocarbon products. They are thin and slippery and can easily suffocate children if the substances get into the lungs when drinking them. The products can cause chemical pneumonia by coating the inside of the lungs. Products that must have a safety lid include:

  • Baby oils

  • Sunscreens

  • Nail enamel dryers

  • Hair oils

  • Bath, body, and massage oils

  • Makeup removers

  • Some automotive chemicals such as gasoline additives, fuel injection cleaners, and carburetor cleaners

  • Cleaning solvents such as wood oil cleaners, metal cleaners, spot removers, and adhesive removers

  • Some water repellents containing mineral spirits used for decks, shoes, and sports equipment

  • General-use household oil

  • Gun-cleaning solvents containing kerosene

Oil products that are thicker and more "syrupy" are not a problem. This is because they are not easily inhaled into the lungs.