American ASSOCIATION
of poison control centers


SEASONAL POISONING HAZARDS


Summer poison safety

Managing a call every 15 seconds, the nation’s 55 poison control centers stay busy year-round, but they do get more calls during the warmer months. As you might expect, in the summer months, poison control centers manage more calls about bites, stings , and pesticides than they do at other times. They also take more calls about some dangerous situations you may not expect, like kids getting into tiki-style torch oil and lighter fluid, or the beer and liquor for the family cookout! Here are some tips to help ensure you and your loved ones enjoy a safe, fun, and poison-free summer.

Increased time outside in the summer can lead to bites and stings from all types of creatures. Visit the bites and stings page for information on treating bee stings, and preventing bites from snakes and mosquitoes.

Lamp oil, lighter fluid, and tiki-style torch fuels are hydrocarbons: slick substances that can cause “chemical pneumonia” if even a few drops get into someone’s airway, especially a child’s. These oils are often pleasantly scented and/or colored. They can resemble or are sometimes stored in containers resembling beverages.

Always keep these products in their original container and locked up away from children.

If someone swallows or inhales any amount of lamp oil, tiki-style torch oil, or lighter fluid, do NOT induce vomiting as this can make the problem worse.

For many adults, alcohol is safe when enjoyed in moderation. However, alcohol is known to interact with many prescription and over-the-counter medicines. Make sure that consuming alcohol is safe for you given any medicines you may be taking. Finally, hot summer days cause fluid loss through sweating, while alcohol causes fluid loss through increased urination. Spending time in hot weather while drinking alcohol can quickly lead to dehydration or heat stroke.

Alcohol is very dangerous for children. When it comes to alcohol, children are not little adults! Even a small amount of alcohol can have harmful effects on a child. Children are naturally curious and mimic adult behaviors, so take special care to keep the wine, beer, liquor, and mixed drinks that you enjoy in moderation up and away from children. If you suspect a child has ingested any amount of alcohol, call the Poison Help hotline right away at 1-800-222-1222.

No matter when you’re cooking, it’s always important to practice food safety , however outdoor gatherings and cookouts require extra care to prevent foodborne illness.

Keep cold salads cold. Place cold salads, like potato salad, in a cooler until ready to eat. Place serving dishes on ice or cool packs to make sure these dishes stay at 40F. Plan ahead for your picnic. If you won’t have access to running water, plan to bring a water jug, soap, and paper towels. Pack plenty of serving and preparation dishes.

Marinate safely. Only marinate foods in the refrigerator, and don’t reuse marinade. The most common symptoms of food poisoning include upset stomach, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and dehydration. Symptoms may range from mild to severe and differ depending on the causative agent.

Review more food safety tips for picnics and grilling from the FDA.

Did you know that fireworks are poisonous? Exposures to fireworks are not very common, but fireworks contain a number of toxic chemicals that can be very dangerous if swallowed. Keep fireworks away from children and pets. If a person or pet ingests part or all of a firework (including “snake”-type fireworks), call Poison Help at 1-800-222-1222 immediately.

Exposures to glow products, like glow sticks, are also common around the 4th of July.

Exposures to pesticide products are reported most commonly in the summer months. If you choose to use chemicals to address problem pests in your lawn and garden, like slugs, rodents, or weeds, check out these safety tips.

• Read the label. Double check that the product targets the insect, rodent, or weed you want to control.

• Put on long pants, socks and shoes, long sleeves, and rubber gloves. The label may suggest additional protection like goggles or glasses.

• Remove toys and pet dishes from the yard.

• Keep kids and pets inside or away from the yard.

• Wait for good weather. Wind and rain can cause products to blow away or run off.

• Do not allow kids or pets back in the yard until the product has fully dried or dust settles.

• Check that all lids are closed and tightly sealed.

• Keep the product in its original packaging. Never transfer pesticides to empty food or drink containers.

• Store up, away, and out of sight of children and pets.

• Take off the clothing you wore during application, and wash your hands.

• Follow disposal directions on the label.

If someone swallows or inhales a pesticide, or gets a pesticide in the eyes or on the skin, call the Poison Help Hotline at 1-800-222-1222. For general questions about the risks, of using or how to select, store, or use insect repellents and other pesticides, call the National Pesticide Information Center at 1-800-858-7378 or visit NPIC’s website.

Fall Poison Safety

For many Americans, the autumn season ushers in lots of "tricks" and "treats!" There is a new chill in the air and a seemingly endless supply of pumpkin foodstuffs on store shelves. Neighborhood streets light up with excited, costumed, glow-stick-waving children on Halloween. Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude and being with family, friends, and loved ones. And of course, autumn is all about eating! America's poison control centers want to help you, your family, friends, and loved ones to be poison safe. Here are some quick tips for staying poison safe this time of year.

One in six Americans will get sick from food poisoning this year. Most of them will recover without any lasting effects from their illness. For some, however, the effects can be devastating and even deadly. Before you cook your Thanksgiving meal, take a moment to review basic safe food preparation tips.

Entertaining guests or hosting family from out of town? Keep in mind that coat pockets, purses, and suitcases may contain medicines not properly stored in child-resistant containers. Give your guests a safe place to store their belongings. Specifically offer a place for them to store any medicines, including over-the-counter and prescription medicines.

Halloween is supposed to be spooky and haunted, but don’t make it too scary by having a poison emergency. Here are some tips for a poison-safe Halloween:

• Glow sticks should be worn, not chewed. Even though the liquid these products are nontoxic, it can be painful to eyes. Call the Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) for tips to wash it off.

• Use makeup and facepaint meant for the skin. If you are worried about sensitive skin, test the product on the arms before applying to the face.

• Check candy packages for rips, tears, and potential foreign bodies, but it is unlikely that someone has tainted candy with any poisonous substances.


Winter Poison Safety

Winter can be a magical time of year. Families gather for the holidays, exchanging gifts and cards, and sharing meals and resolutions for the coming New Year. Friends catch up with each other over drinks, while neighborhoods and shopping centers twinkle with holiday lights. We bundle up as the air gets chilly, and those of us who live in snow-prone areas dust off our sleds, shovels, and snow blowers. As wonderful as winter can be, the season also brings some special poison hazards. The good news is that there are a few easy precautions you can take to help keep you and your loved ones poison-free this time of year.

Each year, poison control centers are consulted more than 10,000 carbon monoxide exposures. Most exposures are reported in the colder months, between November and March.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a very dangerous odorless and colorless gas. The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. If you breathe in enough CO it can make you pass out, and even kill you. CO is released by appliances, tools, and vehicles that burn fuel: generators, furnaces, gas dryers, cars, and more.

Follow these tips to prevent CO exposure:

• Install a CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery regularly.

• Never use a generator inside your home, basement, or garage or less than 20 feet from any window, door, or vent.

• Have your home’s heating system and chimneys inspected regularly to ensure proper ventilation.

For more CO poisoning prevention tips, click here. If you suspect there might be CO in your home, immediately get to fresh air and then call the Poison Help hotline at 1-800-222-1222.

Many adults enjoy beverages containing alcohol in moderation, especially around the winter holidays. However, when it comes to alcohol, children are not little adults! Even a small amount of alcohol can have harmful effects on a child.

Children are naturally curious and mimic adult behaviors, so take special care to keep wine, beer, liquor, and mixed drinks up and away from children. To a child, these drinks can look and taste like juice. If you host a holiday party, don’t wait until the next morning to clean up. Children who wake up early may drink beverages that have been left out.

If you suspect a child has ingested any amount of alcohol, call the Poison Help hotline right away at 1-800-222-1222.

When it comes to toys, a significant concern is button batteries. A child swallowing a button battery is an especially dangerous situation. Button batteries are shaped like coins, metallic, and shiny – very attractive to young children. They are used to power car key fobs, hearing aids, watches, toys, games, flashing jewelry, singing greeting cards, remote control devices, and many other items most parents and caregivers don’t think of as dangerous. While most swallowed button batteries will pass through the gut and be eliminated in the stool, occasionally a swallowed button battery can get stuck in the esophagus, especially in child’s narrow esophagus. When this happens, the battery can cause severe tissue damage, even death. Button batteries may also cause injury when they are placed in the nose or the ears.

Keep items containing button batteries that are not secured by screws like remote controls out of reach of children. If anyone ingests a button battery, call the Poison Help hotline at 1-800-222-1222 immediately.

Tips to prevent ingestion of a button battery:

• Keep items containing button batteries that are not secured by screws (like remote controls) out of reach of children.

• Supervise kids when they are playing with new toys.

• Do not leave wrapped gifts containing button batteries on the floor or unattended.

Children, especially babies and toddlers, are constantly putting things in their mouths, noses, ears, and other places where they don’t belong. Holiday décor often glows, sparkles, and shines, so it is extra appealing! Here’s what you need to know about decorating safely:

• The liquid in “bubble” lights is very toxic.

• “Heirloom” ornaments and décor may contain lead or lead paint. Make sure these items are well out of reach of children.

• Snow globes made in the U.S. are usually filled with water. Those made in other countries have been found to contain toxic liquids like antifreeze.

• Oil used in a menorah can be very dangerous if swallowed!

If you are concerned about exposures to any of these items or other holiday décor, call the Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222). You can also get help through the online tool, PoisonHelp.org.


SPRING Poison Safety

The list of plants that may be poisonous or cause severe skin irritation is long and varies by the region where you live. Teach children not to eat mushrooms or berries growing outside. Edible mushrooms and even berries can look very similar to toxic species, so the experts at poison control centers recommend never eating “picked-from-the-wild” produce. (Even if you are visiting a bona-fide edible berry patch or fruit orchard, it’s best to first wash any soil contaminants or pesticides off all produce before eating it.) Read more about mushroom foraging safety on the food and mushroom poisoning page.

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