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Poisoning

What usually causes poisoning in children?

The most common causes of poisoning in young children are:  drugs, medicines, cleaning products, plants, make-up, pesticides, paints and solvents.  Medicines that contain iron (like many multivitamins) are one of the most common causes of poisoning in children under age 5.

How do I protect my child from being poisoned by medicines?

Use child-resistant medicine bottles consistently.  Choose child-resistant containers whenever possible, and watch out for visitors who may keep medicines in their purse or overnight bag within curious children’s reach.  Remember that child-resistant containers are not necessarily child-proof—so keep medicine up and out of reach of children, not on kitchen countertops or tables.

pill bottles

How do I call the Poison Control Center?

Wherever you live, just dial the nationwide poison hotline number: 1-800-222-1222.

If your child has collapsed or is not breathing, call 911.

Post the poison hotline number by your phone and bring it with you wherever you go. Be sure to point it out to your babysitter.

How do I poison-proof my home?

What do I do if I think my child has been poisoned?

If you think your child has swallowed something toxic, get whatever may still be in their mouth out, and keep whatever evidence you find of what the substance might be.  If the child has symptoms, call 911, and bring the container with you.  Do not make your child vomit.  Do not follow label instructions about poisoning—these are often out-of-date.  If your child does not have symptoms, call the poison center (1-800-222-1222).  They will get more information from you and tell you what to do.

If your child gets a dangerous chemical on their skin, remove their clothes and rinse well with lukewarm water.  Call your poison center.

If your child gets poison in their eye, flush their eye by holding the eyelid open and pouring a steady stream of lukewarm water into the inside corner of the eye.  Flush for 15 minutes, then call the poison center for more instructions.

What about syrup of ipecac?

Syrup of ipecac is no longer recommended to treat poisoning.  If you have it in your house you should throw it away.  Find out the reasons for the new recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in this Q & A on poison treatment in the home.

Where can I find out more?

Check out these related topics on YourChild:

Written and compiled by Kyla Boyse, R.N.  Reviewed by faculty and staff at the University of Michigan

Updated October 2009

U-M Health System Related Sites
U-M Pediatrics

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