Poison Control

Video 47 of 49
3 min 19 sec
English, Español
English, Español

Some of the most dangerous areas of any home, especially for young, curious children, are the places where poisons are stored, such as cleaning products and medications.

Limiting access to these areas will always be key to preventing catastrophe. Luckily, there are numerous procedures and products that can easily help secure cupboards, drawers, and cabinets that house these dangers.

A few simple ways to better secure household poisons include:

  • Store all medications and dangerous chemicals up high, so they're out of reach for small children
  • Purchase commercial made locks at the hardware store
  • Use common household items – like rubber bands – to hold cabinet doors shut while you find better options

Warning: It's important to understand how a colorful liquid chemical looks to a child. Those bright colors probably look like Kool-Aid, fruit punch, or the latest soda, and appear more delicious than dangerous.

Chemicals don't have to be in liquid form to be tempting to children. Another common threat lately are the dishwasher and laundry cleaning pods that children routinely mistake as candy.

However, children consuming poisons is just part of the problem.

Kids also don't know the difference between consuming a medication that will help them feel better when they're sick and over-consuming that same medication – something that could hurt them or even kill them.

Then add to this the fact that these medications are often flavored to taste good so that children will take them. Which is why medicine cabinets deserve the same amount of precaution as those cabinets where poisons are stored.

How to Treat for Poisoning

Is you suspect poisoning, the first thing to do is look for clues to corroborate that suspicion, such as:

  • Are there pills scattered about?
  • Are there empty pill bottles or packages around?
  • Does the victim have burns or redness around the lips and mouth?
  • Does the victim have unusual stains or odors, particularly breath that smells like gasoline or paint thinner?
  • Is the victim exhibiting signs of drowsiness or mental confusion?
  • Is the victim having difficulty breathing?
  • Has the victim vomited?

Pro Tip #1: First aid treatments for poisoning have changed a lot over the years. Which is why if you suspect poisoning you should call the Poison Control Hotline at 1-800-222-1222. Keep this phone number in a prominent location for quick and easy access.

Poison Control will work with you to first help identify the poison in question. And then will guide you in providing treatment for that poison.

Pro Tip #2: You may have heard to induce vomiting with poison victims. And while this is sometimes true, it's not always true. One more reason to call poison control and get the proper treatment advice based on the poison that was ingested.

Pro Tip #3: One thing to have in your emergency or first aid kit is activated charcoal. Activated charcoal is great for removing stains on teeth and pulling toxins out of the body, and as it pertains to this lesson, neutralizing certain poisons.

Warning: If at any point, the patient goes unconscious or stops showing signs of life (moving, breathing normally, etc.), call 911 immediately and activate EMS.

A Word About How Poison Enters the Body

There are four categories of poisons based on how they enter the body – ingestion, inhalation, absorption, and injection.


This category is for all the poisons that can be swallowed – common food poisoning culprits like mushrooms and shellfish, recreational drugs, medications, alcohol, and household items like cleaning supplies.

Young children are most at risk, as everything they see looks like it should go into their mouths immediately and often does. Older adults are also more at risk, mostly due to medication errors.


Inhaled poisons are those gases and fumes that are poisonous. The most common inhaled poison is carbon monoxide, as it's odorless, colorless, and tasteless. To further complicate matters, exposure can lead to death in mere minutes.

Carbon monoxide comes from car exhaust, tobacco smoke, fires, and defective gas cooking and heating equipment, like furnaces and hot water heaters. Other less common culprits in this category include carbon dioxide, chlorine gas, ammonia, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, chloroform, dry cleaning solvents, fire extinguisher gases, industrial gases, and hydrogen sulfide.


Absorbed poisons can enter the body through the skin or mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, and mouth.

Plants are the biggest offenders when it comes to absorbed poisons, and most of us have probably had a run-in with poison ivy once or twice. Chemicals in fertilizers and pesticides are also commonly absorbed poisons, as are topically applied medications.


Injected poisons do include those administered by hypodermic needle, such as recreational and medicinal drugs. But more times than not, instances of poisoning by injection are perpetrated through bites and stings. Poisonous snakes, insects, spiders, and marine life are abundant in certain countries, like Australia, while others like their neighbor New Zealand, can boast a total of zero poisonous animals.