If you child has been bitten by a poisonous bug or animal, call first for instructions from the poison control center. Swallowed a household chemical (such as antifreeze). Call first; you may be told to have your child drink just a few sips of milk or water, to dilute the poison and minimize injury to the mouth or throat. Too much might bring on vomiting, which could be harmful.

poisoningSwallowed medicine. Do nothing until you’ve reached an expert at the poison control center.

Inhaled a poison (such as paint thinner or kerosene). Call–and then go outside or open a window so your child can breathe fresh air.

DON’T WAIT FOR SYMPTOMS If you think your child might have swallowed or come into contact with a poisonous substance–even a small amount–don’t wait for him to get sick. A reaction can take several hours or even a day to appear, say experts. By then, much preventable damage may have been done.



Call it from anywhere in the U.S. day or night, and you’ll be routed to your local poison control center, where a registered nurse, pharmacist, or doctor can guide you. (Want help remembering? Call now for a free sticker.)

What Poison Control Will Need to Know

What your child was exposed to. If possible, have the substance package in front of you when you call.

How long ago it happened.

How much she swallowed or inhaled, got in her eyes, etc.

Her weight.

If there are signs of poisoning, such as lethargy or burns around or in the mouth.

If she has any preexisting medical conditions.


The 6 Most Dangerous Substances in Your Home

1. Medicine, both over-the-counter and prescription, such as cold and cough preparations, adult-strength iron supplements, pain relievers, high-blood-pressure medication, and antidepressants.

2. Caustic products, which can burn, including drain openers, oven cleaners, toilet-bowl cleaners, hair relaxers, and artificial nail primers.

3. Pesticides, both indoor and outdoor, such as bug killers (insecticides) and weed killers (herbicides); they’re supposed to be toxic. Dangerous products include those you buy at a garden store and apply yourself and those that a professional service (such as termite control) applies around your house and garden.

4. Automotive products–antifreeze, windshield-wiper cleaning liquid, brake or transmission fluid, motor oil, gasoline.

5. Hydrocarbons, often in products made from petroleum (kerosene, paint thinner) but also in baby oil and hair oils. Some are poisonous if swallowed at all, while others can easily go “down the wrong pipe” and damage the lungs.

6. Alcohol, found not only in wine and hard liquor but often in mouthwash and cough syrup too.

WARNING: Easy-to-open medicines for seniors are a common cause of childhood poisoning. When your kids are visiting Grandma or vice versa, make sure all medications are kept well out of reach.

Hot Spots

Check the areas around your house where poisonous items are most often stored–the kitchen, bathrooms, basement, garage, and yard–to make sure potentially harmful items are in their original containers and completely out of your child’s reach.

Ipecac vs. Charcoal

Have syrup of ipecac and activated charcoal on hand–but speak to a poison control specialist before you give either to your child, since both have side effects and each works differently:

IPECAC causes vomiting, which shouldn’t be induced if a caustic substance is swallowed.

CHARCOAL binds to poisons so they’re not absorbed, which makes it the best choice for many kinds of poisonous medicine.

Danger Years

Not surprisingly, on-the-go toddlers are the most likely to get into harmful substances. How calls to the poison control hot line break down by age:

UNDER AGE 1: 138,000

AGE 1: 378,000

AGE 2: 367,000

AGE 3: 160,000

AGE 4: 76,000

AGE 5: 44,000