Poison Control

Common poisons in the home and how to stay safe.

Poison Control Worker

Although it's not something that we often think of when we are walking through our home, poison is a hazard that lurks in many common places. More than 90% of poisonings occur in the comfort of your home because it can include coming into contact with simple things like cleaning supplies, cosmetics, and houseplants. Even a prescribed medicine could be poisonous if you take the wrong amount or if the medicine is taken by the wrong person. There are many ways to make sure that your home is safe though. Today we will go through some information to help make sure that you and your family are aware of the hazards in your home and how to avoid them.

To start, it's important that you are able to recognize the potential hazards that are in your own home.

The most common poisonous items in an average household include:

  • Alcohol and drugs (both prescription and illegal).
  • Medications, such as acetaminophen, antibiotics, cough and cold remedies, vitamins, pain relievers, and sleeping pills.
  • Gas leaks, such as exhaust leaks from heaters and stoves and automobile exhaust.
  • Household supplies, such as cleaning products, antifreeze, windshield cleaner, gardening products, and paint thinners.
  • Herbal products, such as vitamins and supplements.
  • Cosmetics, such as perfumes, hair dye, hairspray, nail polish, and nail polish remover.

Since these products are all around us, it is very easy to accidentally come into contact with these products. Especially for children. More than half of poisonings occur in children under the age of six. This is often due to children's natural curiousity. Small children are much more likely than an older person to touch, lick or swallow something without knowing what it is. Often even if a product tastes terrible, a child will still be willing to eat it because it is experimenting with the world around them.

Prevention is the best way to keep your family safe. Many accidental poisonings in children happen when an adult is using a product around the child and then becomes distracted by the doorbell, a telephone, or some other interruption. For example, you could be in the middle of cleaning your bathroom when you get a delivery to the door. When you go to answer the door and get the package, your child has had the opportunity to explore the cleaners that you were using.

The best way to prevent a poisoning is to make sure that you have all of your dangerous items properly labelled and stored.

To keep your family safe, make sure you:

  • Store any potentially dangerous items out of the reach of children. This includes moving the products to a safe place when you stop the activity for even a few moments to go answer the door.
  • Keep products in their original containers so that all of the ingredients and hazardous materials information is easy to read if someone does consume it.
  • Use safety latches for all cabinets containing hazardous substances.
  • Dispose of potentially dangerous items properly. Do not pour medications, cleaners, paints or any potentially hazardous materials down the drain. This could damage your plumbing, and even more troubling it could add hazardous materials to the water system.

If you think that you or someone you love has been poisoned, you should call Poison and Drug Information Services at 1-800-332-1414. When you call this number, make sure you are prepared to answer important questions such as what was ingested and when. If possible, you should have the container of the substance with you when you call. The Information Specialist with extensive experience in toxicology, a nurse or pharmacist will take your call. After gathering all of the necessary information, they will recommend treatment such as basic first aid, home-based monitoring, or a referral for immediate medical attention.

It is also important to keep an eye on them and look for symptoms. Some poisons may not show symptoms for a very long time, but that doesn't mean that there isn't damage being done.

Some common symptoms that might point to poisoning include:

  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Cramps.
  • Throat pain.
  • Drooling.
  • Sudden sleepiness, confusion, or decreased alertness.
  • Anxiousness, nervousness, irritability, or tremors.
  • Seizures.
  • Substance residue or burn around the mouth, teeth, eyes, or on the skin.
  • Trouble breathing.

Every poisoning situation is unique, and many can be prevented with some simple know-how and organization.