Tests & Procedures Index



Poisoning

Sometimes, accidental poisonings can be treated in the home following the direction of a poison control center or your child's doctor. At other times, emergency medical care is necessary.

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, act quickly, and follow these guidelines:

  • Get the poison away from the child.
  • If the substance is still in the child's mouth, make him or her spit it out or remove it with your fingers (keep this along with any other evidence of what the child has swallowed).
  • Do not make the child vomit.
  • Do not follow instructions on packaging regarding poisoning as these are often outdated; instead, call your child's doctor or poison control center immediately for instructions.

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 determine what was swallowed. If your child does not have these symptoms, call your local poison control center or your child's doctor. They will need the following information in order to help you:

  • Your name and phone number
  • Your child's name, age, and weight
  • Any medical conditions your child may have
  • Any medications your child may be 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), and the amount you think was swallowed
  • Any symptoms your child may be having
  • If the substance was a prescription medication, give all the information on the label, including the name of the drug:
    • If the name of the drug is not on the label, give the name and phone number of the pharmacy, and the date of the prescription.
    • 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, and rinse the skin well with lukewarm--not hot--water. If the area shows signs of being burned or irritated, continue rinsing for at least 15 minutes, no matter how much your child may protest. Then, call the poison center for further instructions. Do not use ointments, butter, or grease on the area.

Poison in the eye(s)

Flush your child's eye by holding the eyelid open and pouring a small, steady stream of lukewarm--not hot--water into the inner corner near the nose. Allow 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, and call the poison center for further instructions. Do not use an eyecup, eye drops, or ointment unless the poison center instructs you to do so.

Poisonous fumes or gases

In the home, poisonous fumes can be emitted from the following sources:

  • A car running in a closed garage
  • Leaky gas vents
  • Wood, coal, or kerosene stoves that are not working properly
  • Mixing bleach and ammonia together while cleaning, which 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 for further instructions.
  • If your child is having difficulty breathing, call 911 or your local emergency service (EMS).
  • If your child has stopped breathing, start CPR and do not 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, perform CPR for one minute and then call 911.

Child-resistant lids are required on certain common household products

In 2002, the Consumer Product Safety Commission voted to require safety caps on a variety of commonly used household products. The products, all oily hydrocarbon products, are thin and slippery and can easily suffocate children if the substances are drawn into their lungs when drinking them. The products can cause chemical pneumonia, by coating the inside of the lungs. Products that are required to have a safety lid include:

  • Baby oils
  • Sunscreens
  • Nail enamel dryers
  • Hair oils
  • Bath, body, and massage oils
  • Makeup removers
  • Some automotive chemicals (gasoline additives, fuel injection cleaners, and carburetor cleaners)
  • Cleaning solvents (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, since they are not easily inhaled into the lungs.

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Last reviewed: 4/21/2013