First Aid: Poisoning

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First Aid

Nearly 90% of childhood poisonings happen in the home and most can be treated at home with advice from the poison control center. However, it's important to know when a poisoning is serious enough to need medical treatment.

Signs and Symptoms

  • drowsiness
  • sudden change in behavior
  • unusual odor
  • pill fragments on the lips or clothes
  • excessive drooling
  • vomiting
  • a confused mental state
  • listlessness

What to Do

  • If you suspect that your child has taken a poison and he or she is alert, contact your local poison control center right away for advice (1-800-222-1222).

Seek Emergency Medical Care or Call 911


  • your child has taken a poison and has a change in mental state. It's important to remember to bring the specific bottle or container of the substance that your child ingested. Do not give a child ipecac.

Think Prevention!

To help prevent poisoning:

  • Keep medicines in locked cabinets.
  • Keep cleaning products and alcohol in locked cabinets or far out of reach.
  • Discard (or recycle) used button cell batteries (like those in watches) safely and store unused ones far from children's reach.
  • Never tell a child that medicine tastes like candy.
  • Never put cleaning products in containers that were once used for food or drink.
  • Never put rodent poison on the floor.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: April 2014

Related Resources

OrganizationAmerican Red Cross The American Red Cross helps prepare communities for emergencies and works to keep people safe every day. The website has information on first aid, safety, and more.
Web SitePoison Control Centers Use this toll-free number to reach any of the United States' 65 local poison control centers - (800) 222-1222 - or visit the website to find the poison control center nearest you.
OrganizationEnvironmental Protection Agency (EPA) The EPA is the government agency that works to protect human health and safeguard the natural environment.
Web SiteNational Inhalant Prevention Coalition This website informs parents about inhalant use and what they can do if they suspect their teens are abusing inhalants.

Related Articles

Lead Poisoning Long-term exposure to lead can cause serious health problems, particularly in young kids, so it's important to find out whether your child might be at risk for lead exposure.
Household Safety: Preventing Poisoning From fertilizer to antifreeze and medicines to makeup, poisonous items are throughout our homes. Here's how to protect your kids from ingesting a poisonous substance.
U.S. Poison Control Centers If you have a poisoning emergency, here's the number to know: 1-800-222-1222.
What You Need to Know in an Emergency In an emergency, it's hard to think clearly about your kids' health information. Here's what important medical information you should have handy, just in case.
Getting Help: Know the Numbers The best time to prepare for an emergency is before one happens. Make sure your family knows emergency phone numbers - and make sure your kids know how to place a call for help.

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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