The Poison Post

Current Issue

September 2020

Dogs and Pain Medications

You can gauge the extent and location of your dog's pain by watching his behavior, mood, and response to being touched. Anything more than very mild pain requires examination by a veterinarian who can prescribe the most appropriate medication. Over-the-counter pain medications intended for humans should never be used in dogs without consulting a veterinarian.

Is Eyelash Glue Toxic?

False eyelashes and lash extensions add an extra "pop" to your eyes. Temporary lashes are attached above the natural eyelashes with a temporary adhesive, while semi-permanent lash extensions are attached to the natural lashes with cyanoacrylate, the adhesive in Super Glue. If either kind of adhesive is used incorrectly, it can cause serious toxicity and injury.

Coral Snake Bite Treatment

Coral snakes usually have a pattern of red, black, and yellow (or white) colored rings that span their bodies. Although uncommon, coral snake bites can potentially lead to severe neurotoxicity, including complete respiratory failure, if left untreated. All suspected envenomations should be evaluated and monitored in a hospital for at least 24 hours due to the delayed onset of symptoms.

Risks and Side Effects of Eluxadoline for IBS

Eluxadoline is a medication used for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea (IBS-D) in adults. The most common side effects of eluxadoline are mild constipation, nausea, and abdominal pain. There are important safety considerations for eluxadoline including rare but serious side effects and a potential for drug-drug interactions.

Are Cocklebur Seeds Safe to Eat?

Cocklebur seeds might look and taste like sunflower seeds but they should never be eaten! The seeds can cause abdominal pain, vomiting, low blood sugar, seizures, and severe liver injury.

Hydraulic Fluids are Potentially Dangerous

Hydraulic fluids are used for the transmission of power, which is captured when the fluid is pushed from one confined place to another using pressurized tanks, pistons, and tubing. Hydraulic fluids also keep parts lubricated, transfer heat, and remove impurities. There are many types of hydraulic fluids used for different applications, and all should be considered potentially dangerous.

Previous Issues

June 2020

Fireworks Safety Tips

When used responsibly, fireworks are a fun way to celebrate with friends and family. Unfortunately, serious injuries, poisonings, and fatalities can occur when they are mishandled, unintentionally swallowed, or when they malfunction. For this reason, it is extremely important to understand the risks and follow safety guidelines when handling them.

How to Treat a Lionfish Sting

Lionfish are invasive, meat-eating fish that reproduce quickly. They have spread to non-native waters and can quickly destroy reef ecosystems. They have defensive spines on the top and bottom of their bodies that can cause painful stings. Symptoms following lionfish stings can include swelling, tenderness, redness, sweating, and muscle weakness.

Is Lube Safe to Swallow?

Personal lubricants come in many varieties but are generally safe when used correctly. The most common adverse effect from personal lubricants is irritation. Poisoning is unlikely, but depends on the specific active ingredients, the concentration of the active ingredients, and the amount and route of exposure. To prevent adverse effects, follow the manufacturer's guidelines for proper use.

Proper Use of Crotamiton

Crotamiton is a medication sometimes used to treat scabies infestation. Crotamiton kills the scabies mites and helps with the intense itching associated with scabies. Although it is generally safe, some side effects have been reported. While other pesticide and drug combinations have taken the place of crotamiton as first-line therapy, it remains an option for the treatment of scabies.

Dieffenbachia and Philodendron: Popular but Poisonous

Both Dieffenbachia and Philodendron are great houseplants for beginners. However, both plants contain oxalates which can cause swelling, drooling, and loss of speech if swallowed. Swelling, redness, and irritation can also occur if the skin or eyes are exposed. Dieffenbachia and Philodendron plants should be handled carefully and kept away from children and pets.

Pyrantel: A Safe and Effective Pinworm Treatment

Pyrantel is an important drug for the control of intestinal worms in people and animals. It is estimated that close to 1 billion people are infested with intestinal worms globally. Pyrantel is a safe, effective, and inexpensive treatment for intestinal worms, and usually cures the condition after a single dose. It has very few side effects and is not known to cause toxicity in humans.

March 2020

What's Inside an Ice Pack?

Ice packs are common household items, which makes them accessible to small children. There are many different types of reusable ice packs. Typically, unintentionally swallowing some of their liquid contents causes minor effects such as mouth irritation. However, depending on the ingredients and the amount swallowed, ice packs do have the potential to cause toxicity.

Bird of Paradise Plant

The bird of paradise is an exotic plant with visually stunning flowers. It is an ideal houseplant because it is low-maintenance and is considered non-toxic to humans. A small, unintentional ingestion by a child would likely result in benign gastrointestinal effects such as nausea. Swallowing a larger piece can lead to potentially dangerous effects like choking or dehydration.

Is Micellar Water Safe?

Micellar water is a cosmetic product that is used to remove dirt, oil, and makeup from the face. Micellar water is made up of water mixed with soap, hydrating chemicals, and perfumes. If swallowed, it is unlikely that a small amount of micellar water will result in poisoning, but it may cause vomiting or diarrhea. Micellar water can also be irritating if it gets in the eyes.

How Dangerous is Pepper Spray?

Lacrimators are chemicals that cause tear production and are typically used for personal protection and crowd control. These chemicals cause intense irritation to the eyes, skin, and lungs and can temporarily incapacitate an individual. The most common lacrimator is pepper spray. Its effects are generally mild and resolve fairly quickly. More severe effects require medical evaluation.

Prevention & Treatment of Stingray Injuries

Stingrays have long, thin, whip-like tails equipped with one to three barbed venomous spinal blades. Although they are generally shy, they may strike when unintentionally stepped on. Their venom causes intense pain, but the main risk of a stingray injury is the puncture wound. Hot water immersion and good wound care are central to managing stingray injuries.

Clenbuterol: Unapproved and Unsafe

Clenbuterol is a medication used to treat asthma and COPD in some countries, but it is not FDA-approved for human use in the United States. It is widely misused for possible anabolic and fat-burning effects, which have only been shown in animals. Clenbuterol causes toxicity at low doses. Symptoms include tremors, high heart rate, low blood potassium, seizures, and cardiac arrest.

December 2019

Bath Bombs and Fizzies

When used as directed, bath bombs and bath fizzies are safe. Skin irritation can occur in some people and eye irritation is expected to occur if splashed in the eyes. Unintentional ingestion of small amounts is expected to cause minor effects such as oral irritation, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Swallowing larger amounts has the potential to cause serious toxicity.

St. John's Wort: Beware of Drug Interactions

St. John's wort has been used for centuries and is generally regarded as safe when taken alone and in recommended doses. However, it is well known to have several drug interactions that can result in serious adverse effects or other problems with medications you might already be taking. Consult your physician and pharmacist before starting herbal products or dietary supplements.

Blister Beetles: Do Not Touch!

Blister beetles excrete a toxic blistering agent called cantharidin, which can cause irritation and blistering when it comes in contact with the eyes, skin, mouth, throat, or digestive tract. The irritation and blisters that form can be painful but usually are not life-threatening. Blister beetles are notorious for their ancient use as an aphrodisiac. Not only is such use groundless, it can also be fatal.

Are Rosary Peas Poisonous?

Abrus precatorius beans (also known as rosary peas or jequirity beans) are distinctive-looking red seeds with a black spot that are commonly used in jewelry and toys, especially from foreign sources. The entire plant is toxic, but the beans are highly toxic to humans. If eaten, A. precatorius seeds can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

Clonidine and Guanfacine Uses, Side Effects, and Safety

Clonidine and guanfacine began as treatments for hypertension but have been found useful in managing attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Both drugs can cause adverse effects such as drowsiness, headache, dry mouth, and slowed heart rate, which can be intensified after an overdose. Swallowing even one tablet or coming in contact with a patch can cause toxicity in a child.

CBD Products: Do They Work?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the most studied compounds of the cannabis plant. CBD drew attention when it was shown to stop seizures in a group of patients with a form of epilepsy that does not respond to conventional therapies. Potential benefits of CBD might include anti-inflammatory, immune system, and anti-anxiety effects. A great deal more scientific investigation is needed.

September 2019

Caution When Using Arnica Products

Arnica is used as a flavoring for food and drinks and as a homeopathic treatment for many ailments. It is fairly safe when used for short periods or in very diluted forms. However, eating the plant, the topical creams or ointments, or the plant extracts or oils can result in serious poisoning.

Kissing Bugs and Chagas Disease

Kissing bugs can transmit a parasite that leads to a potentially serious illness called Chagas disease. Most cases of Chagas disease occur in Latin America. Although infection directly from exposure to the kissing bug is rare in the US, it is still important to take steps to prevent kissing bug bites.

Is Ant Bait Safe Around Children?

Ant bait products have a variety of forms and active ingredients. Generally, unintentional exposures pose little risk of toxicity due to their low concentration. Toddlers who taste ant bait products might develop nausea and vomiting. Contact with the skin or eyes can cause irritation. Treatment of exposure to ant baits involves rinsing the mouth, skin, or eyes.

Giant Hogweed and Its Toxic Cousins

Giant hogweed is the most well-known species of the genus Heracleum, a group of plants whose sap contains a chemical that can be very harmful if it touches the skin. Although the concentration of the toxic component can vary from plant to plant, it is best to avoid contact with any species in this group of plants to prevent potential injury!

Povidone-iodine: Safe Use of a Common Antiseptic

Povidone is found in both medical and household items and can cause mild symptoms with large ingestions. Povidone-iodine is a common antiseptic used to disinfect the skin, eyes, and vagina. When used correctly, povidone-iodine might cause mild side effects, but it can cause major problems when used incorrectly.

June 2019

Pool Chemical Safety

Pool chlorinating products are generally safe when handled properly. The key to avoiding injury at the pool is prevention! Make sure to follow all the safety rules at the pool and follow the instructions for handling all pool chemicals.

Virginia Creeper & Wisteria Toxicity

Although they are pretty, Virginia creeper and wisteria can be harmful if they are chewed or swallowed. Both plants can cause mouth pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea and should not be eaten.

Tick-borne Diseases

Ticks are experts at feeding on your blood and, in return for your generosity, transmitting disease to you. There are several different kinds of bacterial, viral, and parasitic diseases transmitted by ticks, and tick-borne diseases are on the rise. Prevention is key: do what you can to prevent them from having access to you.

Cleaning Wipes

During the past decade, the use of cleaning wipes has increased substantially. Cleaning wipes are available for a variety of surfaces. Since they are meant to be used with bare hands, they are mostly water and are not commonly associated with toxicity.

Drugs for Dementia

A decline in cognitive function can occur with aging and, if it interferes with daily activities, it might be diagnosed as dementia. Several drugs can produce small improvements in dementia symptoms. Adverse effects of these drugs occur frequently, and evaluation in a healthcare facility is often necessary if a person takes too much.

March 2019

Tulip Bulb Toxicity

Tulips are beautiful and hardy plants grown from bulbs. Although a variety of symptoms have followed eating tulip bulbs, the exact toxicity of the plant when eaten has not been fully established. However, a well-documented toxicity from handling tulips is known as "tulip fingers."

Side Effects of Ginseng

"Natural" does not always mean "safe." Like all medicines, herbal products and supplements are expected to have some side effects, and ginseng is no exception. Some side effects are related to the natural toxicity of the plants they come from or from problems in manufacturing.

My Child Ate a Match!

Unintentionally swallowing a few match tips is not dangerous but would be expected to cause some minor irritation to the mouth and stomach. Swallowing a large number of matches can cause serious effects including damage to red blood cells and organs such as the kidneys and liver.

Centipede Stings

Centipedes can inflict painful stings, but most are small and rarely sting humans. They live in damp places and hunt for prey at night. Centipedes are considered beneficial because they help control household pests such as cockroaches, silverfish, and ants.

Are Sprouted Potatoes Safe?

You're better off tossing potatoes that have turned green or grown sprouts. Eating them puts you at risk for potential toxicity from solanine and chaconine, two natural toxins found in green or sprouted potatoes.

December 2018

Benefits and Side Effects of Indapamide

Indapamide is a medication for high blood pressure that appears to be better than many other drugs at controlling high blood pressure while lowering the risk of heart failure. However, indapamide can sometimes cause patients to become dehydrated and lose potassium. Adverse effects can last for several days after the drug is taken.

I Swallowed A Cherry Pit!

Although the seeds of stone fruits naturally contain cyanide, small unintentional ingestions generally do not cause harm. However, swallowing, crushing, or chewing the seeds should be avoided. Ingesting stone fruit pits, kernels, or seeds as complementary or alternative medicine is unsupported by scientific evidence and is dangerous and possibly deadly.

Fire Extinguisher Safety

Proper use of fire extinguishers is generally safe; however, there is some risk for mild respiratory, skin, or eye irritation. Use in areas with poor air flow, use with intent to harm someone, or intentional inhalation of fire extinguishers can produce serious toxicity and would require medical evaluation.

Safe Use of Artificial Snow

There are two main types of artificial snow: powders that are mixed with water and spray-on aerosols. In most small exposures, neither product type is likely to cause severe problems, but swallowing the powder or spraying the aerosol directly onto the skin or into the eyes can cause symptoms.

Can Poison Hemlock Be Deadly?

Poison hemlock is a deadly plant that looks dangerously similar to other edible plants. Modern day exposures are often the result of plant misidentification.

September 2018

Treating Tick Bites

Ticks are most active during warmer months (April-September), but tick bites can happen during any time of the year. Ticks live in grassy, wooded, brush-filled areas or even on animals. Tick exposure can happen in your own backyard. See a healthcare provider if you experience fever, rash, or aches within a few weeks of a tick bite.

Are Water Purifying Chemicals Safe?

Portable water purification chemicals are available in tablet, liquid, and powder form and contain the disinfectants iodine or chlorine. They can be added to untreated water to kill harmful microorganisms and make the water safer to drink. Although generally safe, they can easily be mistaken for medications or candy.

Benefits and Risks of New Diabetes Drugs

SGLT2 inhibitors are a new class of drugs for type 2 diabetes. They have some unique benefits such as less risk of dangerously low blood sugar compared to many other antidiabetic medicines. On the down side, patients might experience more urinary infections and should guard against dehydration.

Are Pyracantha Berries Poisonous?

Pyracantha is an evergreen shrub often used in landscaping. The shrub typically has plentiful orange-red berries and needle-like thorns. The berries have not been shown to be toxic to animals or humans, although swallowing large amounts might cause some mild stomach upset.

Stung by an Ant?

Ant stings are common but rarely serious unless they are from imported fire ants. Problems can occur with multiple stings or with allergic reactions.

June 2018

Introduction to the Opioid Epidemic

Opioids are powerful drugs that can relieve pain but also impair breathing, leading to brain injury and death in overdose. The rising number of deaths involving opioids is referred to as the opioid epidemic. People are dying in numbers that exceed the death toll seen during the peak of the AIDS epidemic. Listen to our podcast, Poison!, to learn more.

History of the Opioid Epidemic: How Did We Get Here?

The opioid epidemic has evolved rapidly in recent years, starting with an increase in opioid prescriptions to treat chronic pain. To reduce risk and maximize the benefits of pain treatment options, the CDC issued guidelines for opioid prescribing which recommend non-opioid medications as the preferred first step when treating chronic pain. Listen to our podcast, Poison!, to learn more.

The Opioid Pendulum: Balancing Risks & Benefits

Appropriate use of opioids for pain relief requires delicately balancing risks and benefits. Too much of an opioid can be dangerous or even deadly, but too little leaves the patient in pain. Listen to our podcast, Poison!, to learn more.

Recognizing, Treating, and Preventing Opioid Overdose

When it comes to the opioid epidemic, we can all have a positive impact regardless of our social, economic, or professional status. It is important to practice safe medication use, storage, and disposal to prevent poisoning. By learning how to use the opioid reversal agent naloxone, you could save a life. Learn more by listening to our podcast, Poison!.

How Do We Stop the Opioid Epidemic?

Current responses to the opioid epidemic are inadequate. Effective treatments are underutilized, and the result is a cycle of drug use, inadequate treatment, and return to drug use. Breaking this cycle will require a lot of individual and community effort. Listen to our podcast, Poison!, to learn more.

March 2018

My Child Swallowed Automatic Dishwashing Detergent!

Automatic dishwashing detergents (ADDs) are available as powders, liquids, tablets, and pods. Exposure to ADDs is common and often results in irritation. Severe effects, such as burns and tissue damage, can also occur depending on the type of ADD, the amount, and the duration of exposure.

Side Effects of Overactive Bladder Medication

Overactive bladder (OAB) is a condition that causes a sudden urge to urinate. OAB can be managed through behavioral techniques and medications. However, many people experience side effects, such as dry mouth, even at therapeutic doses.

Ginkgo Biloba: Risks and Benefits

Ginkgo biloba is used by many people in an effort to improve memory and slow age-related intellectual decline, but solid evidence to support these benefits is limited. Ginkgo biloba is generally considered safe, but it can cause adverse effects and interactions with other drugs.

Danger of Tarantula Bites and Scorpion Stings

Tarantula bites typically only cause pain at the bite site, but contact with tarantula hairs can cause redness, itching, and swelling. Most scorpions in the US are not very dangerous, but painful stings are common. Serious effects can occur with stings from the bark scorpion.

December 2017

Donepezil Can Be Toxic if Too Much Is Taken

Donepezil is frequently prescribed to help treat Alzheimer's dementia. It raises levels of acetylcholine in the brain. That can modestly improve symptoms but also cause numerous adverse reactions and drug interactions. Toxic exposures can occur when patients inadvertently take extra doses and when young children access family members' medications.

Nitrate/Nitrite Poisoning, Why So Blue?

Nitrates and nitrites are abundant in the environment and are found in medicines and products in the home. Overexposure to nitrates and nitrites can lead to a condition called methemoglobinemia in which the body is deprived of oxygen, causing a blue-gray discoloration of the skin.

Can Menthol Have Harmful Effects?

Natural products such as peppermint oil have many components. Menthol is the most abundant compound found in peppermint oil. Menthol can cause superficial irritation in small amounts and severe systemic symptoms in large amounts.

September 2017

Oops! I Just Took My Dog's Heartworm Medicine

Ivermectin is a beneficial and safe antiparasitic drug used for a wide variety of parasitic diseases in humans and animals. Ivermectin is helping to eliminate onchocerciasis (river blindness), a malady that has plagued millions in the world's poorest communities.

5-HTP Safety Concerns

5-HTP, which comes from tryptophan found in our diet, is the precursor of serotonin. It is available as a supplement and has appealed to researchers and the public for the treatment of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and a wide range of other conditions. To date, evidence of its effectiveness has been inconclusive and there are important safety concerns.

Hair Styling Products

Hair styling products are widely used. In general, they have a low risk of toxicity when used according to the instructions. Scalp, skin, or eye irritation are the most likely adverse effects.

My Child just Took A Swig of Motor Oil

Motor oil can be very harmful if swallowed and aspirated into the lungs. Patients with respiratory symptoms after ingesting motor oil need to go to an ER for help. Used motor oil has contaminants, but a one-time exposure is unlikely to cause toxicity.

June 2017

Safety and Benefits of Lutein

Lutein, a nutrient found mainly in leafy green vegetables, is thought to protect against light-induced retina damage. While some studies show positive results from lutein use, more research is needed to determine its definitive benefits and safety.

When Is Drywall A Problem?

While there have been concerns about contaminated drywall emitting sulfurous gases, there is little evidence to show that uncontaminated drywall is linked to serious health risks.

Chlorhexidine Adverse Effects

Chlorhexidine is an antibacterial agent that is commonly used in dental and surgical settings. Lower concentration products sold over the counter do not typically cause serious problems, but people can have adverse effects and allergic reactions even with normal use.

Lidocaine Can Cause Harmful Effects

Lidocaine, a local anesthetic, works by causing a temporary numbing effect. When used sparingly and as directed, topical lidocaine is generally safe. Misuse, overuse, or overdose can cause serious problems and even death.

March 2017

Air Fresheners: Are They Safe?

The toxic effects of air fresheners differ depending on the formulation. Small amounts of most air fresheners are usually not dangerous. Swallowing the gel-type evaporative beads or reed diffuser solutions can cause serious effects in children. There are concerns about adverse effects on the environment and health with repeated exposures to air fresheners.

Take Acepromazine by Mistake?

Acepromazine is a drug used to sedate animals and is not for human use. Most acepromazine poisonings occur in curious children or when people unintentionally mistake it for their own medication. Common symptoms of acepromazine poisoning include drowsiness and slowed breathing. In some cases, seizures, coma, and death have been reported.

What Is Lycopene?

Lycopene is a carotenoid − a natural pigment that gives some vegetables and fruits their red color. There are several published studies that evaluate whether lycopene in tomato products or supplements could have protective effects against prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease. However, there is not enough evidence to say that lycopene provides such health benefits. 

Too Much Tacrine?

Tacrine (Cognex) was the first drug approved by the FDA for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Cholinesterase inhibitor drugs like tacrine improve the symptoms of the disease and increase quality of life but do not cure or reverse Alzheimer’s disease. Newer cholinesterase inhibitors are safer and have replaced tacrine.

December 2016

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Ramelteon is a drug that is prescribed to help people fall asleep faster. It typically causes only mild side effects.


Vinegar is a common ingredient in many foods. There is limited evidence that vinegar has legitimate medicinal uses. Vinegar can cause injury if improperly used. 


Valerian is an herbal dietary supplement sold over-the-counter (OTC) for its sedative and calming effects. It is generally considered safe and well-tolerated; however, scientific evidence showing its effectiveness is inconclusive. 

What You Need to Know About Caulk

There are various kinds of caulking compounds on the market, each geared to a specific kind of project. Most caulks are made up of acrylic, latex, silicone, or a combination of all three. In general, caulk is only a mild irritant. 

September 2016

Brake Fluid (diethylene glycol)

Most brake fluids contain diethylene glycol (DEG). DEG has a sweet taste making it attractive to children and pets. DEG poisoning does not produce a lot of initial symptoms but it can cause substantial kidney damage.

What You Need to Know about Glucosamine

Glucosamine is a natural substance found in cartilage. In the US, it is sold as a dietary supplement and promoted to reduce osteoarthritis pain. It is generally safe and well-tolerated. However, strong scientific evidence showing that it actually works is lacking and dietary supplements are not regulated in the same vigorous manner as medications.

Concern about Hair Dye

Even when hair dyes are used correctly, they can cause toxicity. Skin damage and allergic reactions are well documented. Eye exposure can cause a range of toxicities from mild irritation to loss of vision. Accidental swallowing can cause irritation or injury to the mouth and stomach as well as life-threatening allergic reactions.

SNRI Antidepressants

SNRIs are a class of antidepressants. A rare but potentially very serious side effect of SNRIs is serotonin syndrome, which can occur when SNRIs are taken with other drugs. Like all antidepressants, SNRIs should not be abruptly stopped. Careful tapering of the dosage can minimize the risk of withdrawal. 

June 2016

Don't Get Burned by Cement

Cement is used widely. Its high pH makes it corrosive and it can burn the skin, eyes, mouth, and lungs. The best prevention is to avoid or minimize exposure to it.

The Safety of Hairspray

When used as directed, hairspray is minimally toxic. Unintentional eye contact, inhalation, or ingestion of small amounts of hairspray might produce minor irritating effects. Irritation should improve by rinsing the eyes or mouth or getting fresh air. Deliberately swallowing or inhaling hairspray can be very dangerous.

Insect Repellents

Protection against disease transmission from insect bites is an important worldwide public health issue. DEET has been the most widely used and most effective insect repellent for 60 years. Newer repellents such as picaridin, IR3535, and plant-derived oils may be somewhat safer but are not more effective than DEET.

Kava Kava

Kava kava is an herbal product sold over the counter for its possible calming effect. Recently, the FDA has offered recommendations on restricting kava kava in some groups because certain formulations might cause liver damage. 

March 2016

Drugs for ED

Erectile dysfunction (ED) medications can help treat certain medical causes of ED, but they are not without risk. Serious toxic effects have been seen in adults with use and misuse of these medications. Some “genuine” brand name products and herbal or “natural” ED products are counterfeit or mislabeled and sometimes contain dangerous substances.

Pennyroyal oil

Pennyroyal oil is an herbal extract from a plant in the mint family and has been used for centuries as a folk remedy. Pennyroyal oil is highly toxic, and its use has resulted in severe illness, liver failure, and death.

The Baby Drank Shampoo

Shampoos contain ingredients ranging from detergents to conditioners to vitamins, botanicals, and even beer. Some are formulated to be mild enough for babies, some contain medically active ingredients. Shampoo is a minimally toxic product when used on the hair and scalp but can cause symptoms if swallowed or splashed in the eye. 

December 2015


Mistletoe has a reputation for being deadly, but is that reputation deserved? Until recent studies were published, the American mistletoe genus, Phoradendron, was widely considered to be extremely poisonous. Swallowing American mistletoe can cause symptoms such as gastrointestinal upset but is not likely to cause serious poisoning in small, unintentional ingestions. 

I Just Broke A Thermometer. What Do I Do?

A broken mercury-containing thermometer can be toxic if the vapors are inhaled. The risk of poisoning from touching or swallowing mercury from a broken thermometer is low if appropriate clean-up measures are taken. 

My Child Drank Perfume

Most fragrance products contain alcohol; some contain up to 95%. Alcohol can cause serious effects in children. Fragrance products can also cause skin irritation, which will usually go away if you stop using the product. 

My Child Ate Toothpaste

Toothpaste usually contains fluoride. Swallowing it can cause stomach upset. Although fluoride can lead to more serious toxicity in very large amounts, it is unlikely to occur from small, unintentional ingestions of over-the-counter, fluoride-containing toothpaste. 

September 2015

My Child Swallowed Hair Relaxer

A hair relaxer is a cream or thick paste that chemically changes the texture of curly hair to make it straighter. If swallowed or upon contact with skin or eyes, hair relaxers can cause burns.

Took Too Much Melatonin?

Melatonin occurs naturally in the body and is involved in the natural regulation of sleep. Melatonin is sometimes used as a dietary supplement to help people sleep. Like other dietary supplements, there are few studies that have examined its effectiveness. Toxicity from melatonin appears to be mild.


Dextromethorphan is an over-the-counter cough suppressant found in more than 120 cough and cold products. Recreational abuse has become increasingly common and leads to approximately 6000 emergency room visits a year. Recreational users intentionally exceed recommended doses to experience heightened awareness, altered time perception, and visual hallucinations.

My Child Swallowed Lamp Oil

Lamp oil can provide warm, glowing light. If swallowed, however, lamp oil can cause serious injury that might not be apparent right away.

Cat Bites and Scratches

Bites and scratches from a healthy-appearing cat can make you sick. Always tell your healthcare provider about cat bites and scratches if you have unexplained symptoms, especially fever.

June 2015

Harmful Algal Blooms

Warm temperatures, sunlight, and added nutrients can cause an overgrowth or “bloom” of algae in bodies of water. Some algae produce toxins that can poison people or animals when they swallow, swim in, or inhale the water or when they eat fish that live there.


A majority of mosquito bites only cause minor skin irritation. However, mosquitoes can spread serious viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections. The most effective way to prevent infections spread by mosquitoes is to prevent mosquito bites. 

Propylhexedrine (Benzedrex)

Propylhexedrine (Benzedrex) inhalers can be bought without a prescription for use as a nasal decongestant but can be abused to help study or to get high. They should not be used for these purposes.

March 2015

Spring Cleaning

A clean home provides a healthy environment for your family, but household cleaning products can contain hazardous chemicals. Acid, alkali, bleach, polish, detergent? It’s important to be aware of the most common cleaner ingredients, what they are intended (and not intended) to do, and how to use them safely.

Azaleas and Rhododendrons

Serious poisoning is unlikely when small pieces of azalea or rhododendron are swallowed. But swallowing large amounts of any part of the plant or honey made from these flowering plants can cause life-threatening symptoms. 


All parts of the daffodil are toxic. When swallowed, it can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Eating the bulb can cause severe irritation of the mouth and stomach upset. These symptoms are usually not life threatening and resolve within a few hours.


Foxglove grows throughout the United States. It grows in the wild and is often cultivated for its beauty in private gardens. All parts of the plant are poisonous, possibly even deadly, if swallowed. 

Container Transfers

Transferring products from their original containers to unlabeled beverage or other containers happens all too often. Think only children mistake the contents for juice or soda? Not so! Adults unintentionally drink these poisons too. Sometimes the result is only throat irritation or vomiting, but sometimes the consequences are serious. 

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal keeps swallowed drugs and poisons from being absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream. It's a highly effective treatment for many poisons. 

December 2014

Holly Berries

The berries of the holly plant are poisonous to people and pets. Swallowing them can cause vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and drowsiness. 


Antidepressants are drugs used to treat major depressive disorder, panic disorder, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other conditions. The Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors affect the way our bodies use serotonin and other neurotransmitters. The drugs may take a few weeks to help and may cause withdrawal if stopped suddenly.


The poinsettia plant is often considered deadly. That's wrong. Poinsettia can be irritating but it is not fatal if eaten. If children and pets eat it, they can develop a mouth rash and stomach upset. The sap can cause a skin rash, too.

Travel Safely: Tips for the Holiday Season

Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother's house - or maybe on a cruise - or perhaps to a hotel in a new city or a foreign country?  Wherever your destination for the holidays, by automobile, plane, ship or sleigh, a little planning will help keep holiday travel safe and enjoyable. 

Poisons and Antidotes in Children's Storybooks

From the magical to the horrifying, children's stories provide a long list of poison prevention DON'Ts. There is a common theme in most of these magical stories, however. Poison prevention is important for people and animals of all ages, and seeking help is very important.


Marijuana is the most common illicit drug in the U.S. A few states have decriminalized small amounts of the drug. Some permit medical uses. Marijuana is usually smoked. Effects include altered mood, impaired coordination, and impaired judgment. More severe effects sometimes occur. There is no antidote; treatment is supportive. The drug is sometimes addictive.

October 2014

Halloween: Tricks, Treats, and Glow Sticks

Halloween treats are great. Tricks are not! Go with your children when they trick-or-treat. Look at the goodies before they're eaten. Rinse liquid from glow sticks out of eyes if it's splashed. Drink some water if it's swallowed. And, stick to actual cosmetics meant for the skin when making up.

Brown Recluse Spider Bites

Brown recluse spiders are rarely seen or identified. A brown recluse spider bite often is not felt when it happens. The complex venom causes injury and death (necrosis) of the surrounding tissues. In severe cases, the venom can damage deeper tissues. Serious illness and death are rare. There is no antidote; treatment includes treating the wound and preventing infection. 

Celebrate a Healthy and Happy Thanksgiving

Family, friends, delicious food...Thanksgiving is a happy time of year. Keep your gathering fun and healthy by following some simple guidelines for food preparation and home safety. Take a few minutes to review your Thanksgiving plans. And leave room for the pumpkin pie!


Heroin, an addictive, illegal drug, can cause fatal overdoses. It is an opioid, a class of drugs that includes morphine, codeine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone, among others. Heroin use is increasing due to tighter controls on prescription opioids. Naloxone is the antidote for an acute overdose. Withdrawal should be medically supervised.

Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Poison Sumac

Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac can cause rashes if someone touches them. The rash is caused by oils in the plants. It may be severe enough to blister and itch for days or weeks. Most cases can be managed at home with household and OTC products. Severe cases require medical attention. If these plants are burned, inhaling the smoke can cause severe breathing problems.

June 2014

Acne Treatments: Severe Allergic Reaction Warnings

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported a number of cases of severe allergic reactions to acne medicines containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Symptoms included chest tightness, trouble breathing, faintness, and severe swelling of the face, throat, lips, and tongue. Anyone with these symptoms should call 911 right away.

Caterpillar Stings

Many caterpillars have hairs or spines. In contact with human skin, they can cause pain, rashes, itching, burning, swelling, and blistering. Avoiding caterpillars is best. Remove spines by applying and removing tape to strip the irritating hairs and spines out of the skin.

Epinephrine Auto-Injectors: Take Care to Avoid Finger Sticks!

Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction, often to ordinary things like bee stings, peanut butter, or antibiotics. Life-saving auto-injectors are used to treat anaphylaxis. Use them safely to prevent finger sticks. Unintentional injection of epinephrine into fingers or hands can cause limited blood flow and injury. It sometimes requires a trip to the emergency room.

Essential Oils: Poisonous when Misused

Essential oils are derived from plant parts. Because they have a scent, essential oils are often used in perfumes, cosmetics, room fresheners, and flavorings. Many have a history of medicinal use, too. Misuse of essential oils can cause serious poisoning.

Iron Poisoning

Iron is essential to our health. It is found naturally in many foods, added to some fortified food products, and widely available as a supplement. Though iron is found naturally in some foods, an overdose of iron supplements can be life-threatening. Acute iron poisoning in children can lead to bleeding, shock, acidosis, and death.

March 2014

Buprenorphine: Dangerous to Children

Buprenorphine is prescribed for adults with opioid dependence or chronic pain. Most buprenorphine poisoning in children occurs due to improper storage of the medication. Symptoms of buprenorphine poisoning in children are drowsiness, vomiting, slow breathing, increased heart rate, and agitation. Coma and death have also been reported.

Club Drugs ("Molly")

"Molly" is slang for an illegal street drug. It is often thought to be a "pure" form of the illegal drugs Ecstasy or MDMA. However, capsules or powder called "Molly" often contain other illegal drugs, legal drugs, sugar, baking powder, soap, or other household substances. Taking "Molly" can be fatal. Even first-time users have died.

Homeopathic Medications for Children

Most homeopathic medications are not poisonous IF they are diluted correctly and don't contain alcohol. Some homeopathic products have caused toxicity, adverse reactions, and allergic reactions. Others don't contain any active ingredients and may not be appropriate treatment for a condition. FDA does not evaluate homeopathic

Over the Counter (OTC) Drug Labels

The most important part of taking or giving medicine happens before taking or giving that drug: reading and understanding the label. This is the easiest way to prevent errors and overdoses. All over-the-counter (OTC) medication labels contain Drug Facts: important information about the active ingredient(s), uses, warnings, doses, and directions.

National Poison Prevention Week 2014

More than 1.4 million children get into poisons every year. Preventing poisonings is most important. But, if children do get into a poison, call Poison Control right away. The 24-hour number is 1-800-222-1222.

December 2013

Caffeine: Is it a Problem for Kids?

Symptoms of caffeine overdose can be mild (shaky hands, stomach upset) to severe (high blood pressure, seizures, coma). Caffeine is found in traditional sources (coffee, tea, chocolate, soda) and many new sources (energy drinks, foods with added caffeine). Children are taking in more and more caffeine, but we don't know how much is safe for children.

Holiday Poison Safety

Don't invite poison to your holidays! Poisonings increase when families travel. Some holiday decorations and plants can be poisonous. Button batteries and tiny magnets are VERY dangerous if children swallow them! There are several ways to prevent food poisoning. Cleaning up after a party could prevent children from swallowing poisons the next morning.

Medical Marijuana Poisoning in Kids

Medical marijuana is sometimes prescribed for patients with HIV/AIDS, seizure disorders, cancer, severe pain, and severe nausea. The active chemical is usually stronger than in the marijuana plant. There are no regulations for child-safe storage of medical marijuana products; young children have been seriously poisoned by swallowing medical marijuana.

Pain Relievers: Ibuprofen, Naproxen, and Aspirin

Ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They are used to treat pain, fever, and inflammation. They are also found in combination products such as cough and cold medicines. An overdose of these medications may cause stomach upset, abdominal pain, and vomiting, kidney damage, ulcers, bleeding, seizures, and coma.

Paints for Indoor Use

Most paints for indoor use are very safe to use. Solvent-based or oil-based paints may cause more irritation to the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract than water-based paints. There's no evidence that paint fumes harm pregnant women or the fetus, but pregnant women are advised to limit their exposure to fresh paint fumes.

September 2013

E-Cigs and Toddlers: Beware

Electronic cigarettes (e-Cigs) are devices made to look like real cigarettes. They contain a battery, a heater, and liquid nicotine. When heated, the nicotine liquid becomes a vapor, which users inhale. Liquid nicotine products contain flavorings and something to help the product vaporize. Liquid nicotine products are very poisonous if swallowed.

Household Product Labels

Household product labels often contain the wrong information - or no information - about treating poisonings.

Inhaling Alcohol Is Dangerous

Alcohol vapors can be produced by heating up alcohol or pouring it over dry ice. Alcohol can be absorbed into your bloodstream by inhaling alcohol vapors. People who inhale alcohol vapors get drunk very quickly, because the alcohol goes straight to the brain. Also, heated alcohol vapor can injure the lungs.

Non-Toxic Substances Cause Worry

Many household items are non-toxic (not poisonous) to children, even though they sound scary. Birth control pills, silica gel packets that say "do not eat", and potting soil are among them. BUT young children can choke on non-toxic products.

Sodium: Too Much of a Good Thing

Sodium is found in table salt, rock salt, pickling salt, and sea salt; soy sauce contains high levels of sodium. Sodium is essential to human health, but too much sodium is poisonous. Sodium poisoning can cause seizures, coma, and death.

July 2013

Ancient Shipwreck, Modern Medicine

If you haven't cleaned out your medicine cabinet for a while, you might find some old, old medicines hiding there. But they wouldn't be older than the medicines found at the bottom of the sea, near Italy. It's interesting to link ancient medicines with problems that still bother us today - and with modern treatments for the same problems from years past.

Are Weight Loss Supplements Safe?

Many weight loss supplements contain ingredients that are contaminated, ineffective, dangerous, or actually illegal. Some people become ill after taking these products. Some have interactions with medicines. It can be hard to get your money back. Worst of all, these products often don't help.

Gasoline and Toddlers: Summer Risks

Children get into gasoline most often in the summertime. If they're outside the car at the gas station, they get splashed; this can irritate the eyes or skin. If someone transfers gas to a food or drink container, kids drink it. Drinking gasoline can lead to gagging on it; this can lead to pneumonia and lung damage.

Lead and Pregnancy

Pregnant women with high blood lead levels can have high blood pressure, spontaneous abortion, small babies, and brain damage in the infant. All pregnant women with even one risk factor for lead poisoning should have a blood lead level done. Pregnant women with lead levels at or above 5 micrograms/deciliter must have further assessment and treatment.

My Child Ate a Cigarette!

Nicotine is very poisonous. The amount in only one cigarette butt is enough to poison a child. Other forms of nicotine are also extremely poisonous: cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, pipe tobacco, nicotine gum if chewed by a child, nicotine patches if chewed on by a child, and liquid nicotine used for electronic cigarettes.

April 2013

Food Poisoning

There are many possible causes of food poisoning: bacteria, viruses, pesticides, natural toxins, molds, parasites, and more. There are so many types of food poisoning that there are many possible symptoms. Food poisoning is especially dangerous for infants, young children, elderly people, and those with chronic health conditions or weak immune systems.

February 2013

Alcohol: A Dangerous Poison for Children

Alcohol can be a dangerous poison for children. Alcohol depresses the central nervous system and causes low blood glucose (sugar). Children who drink alcohol can have seizures and coma; they could even die. This is true of beverage alcohol (beer, wine, liquor) and alcohol found in mouthwash and other personal care products.

Eye Injuries

If it doesn't belong in your eye, it will probably hurt if it gets into your eye - a lot. Irritation, injury, even blindness can result. People get things into their eyes by not reading labels, by using products the wrong way, or by not using protective equipment when it's needed. Rinsing your eyes right away is very important if you get something into them.

Grapefruit and Medicines: Can They Mix?

At least 85 drugs are known or thought to interact with grapefruit. Grapefruit products can cause those drugs to stay in your system much longer than usual. The effects are like a drug overdose. They can include dangerous heart rhythms, kidney damage, muscle damage, respiratory depression, and bleeding from the stomach or intestines.

Vaporizer Medicine: Dangerous to Swallow

Vaporizers can add moisture and medication to the air. This can help people who have colds, the flu, or allergies. However, medicated vaporizer liquids are poisonous to swallow.

December 2012

Children and Spray Bottles: A Hazard

More and more household cleaning products are found in spray bottles. More and more children are being poisoned by those products. Cleaning products in spray bottles are now the leading source of cleaning products that poison children. Most injuries are to the eyes and head. It's important to wash the skin and eyes right away with lots of running water.

Mixing Meds, Herbs and Supplements

There are nearly 1500 documented interactions between drugs, herbal medicines, and dietary supplements. These interactions can cause a wide variety of harmful effects. Taking an herb or supplement could change the way a prescription medicine works in the body, causing symptoms like an overdose. Or, it might cause the medicine not to work at all.

Pets and Medication Errors

Medication errors can be dangerous for humans and for pets. An overdose of the pet's own medicine can be harmful, even fatal. Some human medicines are very dangerous for pets. Drug interactions can occur in pets, just as they can in humans. Be as careful about medicating pets as you are about medicating your children or yourself.

Rubbing Alcohol Only Looks Like Water

Rubbing alcohol looks like water. Even small amounts are poisonous to children. It is also poisonous to adults, who sometimes substitute rubbing alcohol for drinking alcohol. Rubbing alcohol can also be toxic when inhaled. It should be used in a well-ventilated area. In addition, because it is flammable, it should always be kept away from open flame.

Toxic Twists

Are you getting ready for holiday parties? Setting out mixers? Choosing wine? Primping? A few things have changed over the years. See if you can answer these toxic twists!

October 2012

Alternative Medicines for Colds

Just about everyone gets colds. Symptoms include a stuffy nose, cough, tiredness, sneezing, sore throat, and muscle aches. Symptoms last for up to two weeks. Most people get better on their own. Treatment is according to symptoms. In general, there is no reliable evidence that alternative medicines prevent or shorten colds.

Antibiotics: Overdose vs Misuse

Antibiotic overdoses are rarely dangerous, but stomach upset and diarrhea may occur. Taking the wrong antibiotic is a problem if someone is allergic to the drug. Misuse of antibiotics is a problem for many reasons: an infection might not be cured, antibiotic-resistant organisms can develop, or, if a specific antibiotic is needed, it might not be effective.

Dangers of Illegal "Spice" and "Bath Salts"

"Spice", K2, and fake weed are some of the names given to illegal plant-based substances intended to imitate marijuana. Symptoms can range from anxiety and psychiatric disorders to death. "Bath salts" is a name for a synthetic chemical meant to act like cocaine or amphetamine. Users have had seizures, high blood pressure, and hallucinations; some have died.

Kids Will Swallow Anything

Children will swallow anything they can reach. Most of the time, these objects pass through the gastrointestinal tract with no trouble; the object turns up in the child's stool. Sometimes, surgery is needed to remove the object(s). In one recent study, coins made up 80 percent of swallowed foreign objects that had to be removed by surgery.

Online Pharmacies: Avoid the Frauds

Internet pharmacies offer a convenient way to obtain prescription drugs and are frequently used by health insurers. Unfortunately, only about 4% of online pharmacies are actually legal, licensed pharmacies. Fraudulent pharmaices may allow you to purchase prescription medicines without a prescription. The medicines they send may be fake, wrong, or contaminated.

"Toy" Magnets Are Dangerous for Children

Sets of tiny, strong magnets were sold as adult toys but often were swallowed by children, resulting in serious injury and even death. The magnets, or a magnet and another metal object, stuck to each other, even through folds of intestine or tissue. This pinched off blood supply to the area, causing tissue death, bleeding, and infection.

August 2012

Grandparents and Child Safety

Grandparents can be bewildered by today's safety recommendations: yes to car seats and bare cribs; no to walkers. There are many new medicines now, too. Some of them can be dangerous for children who swallow only one tablet. Grandparents' medicines are among the most dangerous causes of childhood poisoning.

Laundry Detergent Pods and Children

Laundry pods are a huge new category of cleaning product. For unknown reasons, this type of laundry liquid has caused dangerous injury to children and at least one death. Effects of biting into a laundry pod include coughing, choking, trouble breathing, coma, and possibly death. The detergent also can irritate the skin and burn the eyes.

Pokeberries: A Grape Look Alike

Pokeberries are found in grape-like clusters on tall perennials with purple-red stems. Eating several berries can cause pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Adults have eaten the roots, mistaking them for medicinal plants. Serious gastrointestinal problems have occurred, including bloody vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and low blood pressure.

Ranitidine (ZantacĀ®) and Babies

Up to 70% of infants vomit at least once a day until they are four months old. They may suffer from gastroesophageal reflux.Sometimes doctors prescribe ranitidine for these babies. Parents often panic after giving the wrong dose of ranitidine. Ranitidine overdoses usually don't cause problems; parents should call Poison Control anyway for specific advice.

Take Care with Head Lice Treatments

Head lice can affect just about any one. They are not dangerous but they cause miserable itching. Treating head lice involves combing the lice and their eggs (nits) from each strand of hair. Often a chemical also must be used to prevent additional lice from hatching. Follow instructions carefully. Keep products out of eyes, because they can be irritating.

Using Skin Patch Medicines Safely

Transdermal drugs release small amounts of drug into the blood stream over a long period of time. These "skin patch" drugs include pain relievers, nicotine, hormones, and drugs to treat angina and motion sickness. Overdoses can happen if the patch is broken, cut open, or chewed on, if too many are worn, or if a child has an adult patch on.

June 2012

Antihistamines: Using Them Safely

Antihistamines are medicines to treat allergic reactions to pollen, dust, pet dander, foods, and drugs. Antihistamines are found in many different forms for children and adults: liquids, tablets, creams, nasal sprays, and eye drops. Finding the best antihistamine for your symptoms can take a while. In the meantime, never take too much!

Bee Stings: Is It an Allergic Reaction?

Stings from bees, wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets are common and painful. Pain, swelling, and itching at the site of the bite are common. An allergic reaction includes trouble breathing, chest tightness, and swelling on the body someplace other than the bite site. Allergic reactions to a bite or sting are medical emergencies. Call 911 right away.

Birth Control Pills and Toddlers

Packages of birth control pills contain hormone pills and may contain iron and placebo pills. Children who swallow birth control hormones are not at risk, even if they are boys. There are few, if any short term effects from the hormones. Children who swallow birth control hormones may have stomach upset, diarrhea, or irritability but no long-term effects.

Black Widow Spiders

Black widow spider bites can be dangerous but fatal bites are rare. Black widow spider bites often are painful right away. After a bad bite, severe pain and muscle cramps can start in a couple of hours. Pain and muscle cramps can be treated. Antivenin is available but is needed only rarely.

Cocoa Bean Mulch Can Poison Dogs

Cocoa bean mulch contains theobromine and caffeine, just like chocolate. These chemicals are poisonous to dogs. Dogs who swallow cocoa bean mulch could have vomiting, diarrhea, a very fast heart rate, tremors and seizures. Death is uncommon but has happened. It's impossible to tell how much cocoa bean mulch might be poisonous.

Hydrogen Peroxide

There are several grades of hydrogen peroxide. Not all are safe for home use. Swallowing small amounts of household (3%) hydrogen peroxide usually is not dangerous. It can create a lot of foam, though. Household hydrogen peroxide can be irritating to eyes and skin. Higher concentrations can cause burns.

April 2012

ADHD Drugs and the Heart

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects children and adults. Stimulant drugs are given to children and adults. Questions about possible effects on the heart and blood vessels were answered by two large recent studies: these drugs are not associated with an increased risk of serious effects on the heart and blood vessels.

Ecstasy: Summary of Harmful Effects

Ecstasy, an illegal drug of abuse, is a stimulant related to amphetamine. An ecstasy overdose can cause high blood pressure, a rapid heart rate, seizures, dehydration, a dangerously high body temperature, and death. An ecstasy user who develops medical distress should be seen promptly in an emergency room.

Hospitalization of Seniors from Medication

Every year, nearly 100,000 adults aged 65 and older are admitted to the hospital for drug side effects. In a recent study, the majority of problems were caused by "blood thinners" (warfarin and other oral anti-thrombosis drugs) and diabetes drugs (insulin and oral diabetes medicines).

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is an infection caused by tick bites. Infected ticks are carried by deer and other outdoor animals. Lyme disease usually causes a rash around the bite. Other early symptoms can include chills, fever, headache, fatigue, and joint pain. Joints, the nervous system, and the heart are sometimes damaged. Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics.

Medication Errors - Double Dosing

The most common medication error is taking - or giving - a double dose. For some medicines, a double dose can cause significant problems. Examples include medicines for high blood pressure, ADHD, and diabetes.

Teaching Children to Take Medicine

At some point, children will be old enough to take their own medicines. Teaching children to take medicine safely involves supervision; teaching children when to take medicine; and teaching children how to take medicine.

February 2012

Dangerous Household Hydrocarbons

Hydrocarbons include baby oil, mineral oil, household lubricating oil, lamp oil, torch fuel, lighter fluid, gasoline, kerosene, motor oil, heating oil, hair oil, and some kinds of furniture polish. These slippery liquids easily can be breathed into someone's lungs when they try to swallow them. This can cause pneumonia and death.

Expired Medicines: Should You Take Them?

Don't take expired medicines. Instead, throw them away according to FDA guidelines. Old medicines may not work as well as they should. Drugs kept for a long time may deteriorate.

Generic Drugs versus Brand Name Drugs

Generic medicines have the same active ingredients and effects as brand name medicines, but they may be a different color, shape, or size. For many years, U.S. law has required that generic drugs look different from brand names. Many different drug companies may make versions of the same medicine. Generic drugs are less expensive than brand name drugs.

Laundry Products

Children get into all kinds of home laundry products. Some can cause irritation, from mild to painful: stain removers, pre-treatment agents, liquid and powder detergents, and fabric softeners. A few can cause burns or even death, such as rust remover and laundry pods. Bleach generally causes mild effects except for newer, concentrated bleach products.

Medication Errors

There are many ways to make mistakes with medicines. Among the most common are taking the wrong medicine, taking too much medicine, giving the wrong medicine, and confusing one medicine for another. Problems from these mix-ups could range from minor to extremely serious.

National Poison Prevention Week 2012

More than 1.4 million children get into poisons every year. Preventing poisonings is most important. But, if children do get into a poison, call Poison Control right away. The 24-hour number is 1-800-222-1222.

Prescription Overdose Deaths

Two groups of people are most at risk of prescription drug overdose in this country: people who take high doses of opioids for medical uses over a long period of time and people who abuse opioids by taking them without a medical reason for doing so.

Tips for a Happy and Safe Valentine's Day

Most of us are thinking about love, chocolates and flowers on Valentine's Day, not about poison. Let's also keep the day poison-free by following a few quick tips from Poison Control. Enjoy those treats! 

December 2011

ADHD Drugs: An Overview

"ADHD" stands for "attention deficit hyperactivity disorder". Symptoms include hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and inability to pay attention, manage frustration, stay organized, or focus on tasks. Treatment is based on behavior therapy and/or drug therapy. ADHD drugs can cause side effects; a deliberate overdose of any amount requires immediate medical care.

Bedbugs: Sleep Tight

Bedbugs are becoming more common. They are alarming and can cause uncomfortable bites. They do not cause human illness. Eliminating an infestation may require the assistance of a professional pest control operator.

Increasing Childhood Drug Poisonings

More young children now visit U.S. emergency rooms for drug poisonings than for car crashes. The most dangerous prescription medicines for children to get into include those for diabetes, anxiety, muscle spasms, sleep problems, heart disease, and high blood pressure, and opioid (narcotic) pain relievers.

Christmas Tree Preservatives

Christmas tree preservatives aren't necessary. Commercial preservatives may cause stomach upset and vomiting in children and pets who swallow them. Home-made preservatives may contain ingredients that are harmful to children and pets.

Fireplace Perils

Fireplace flame color enhancers may contain heavy metals and/or caustic agents. Fire gel starter may contain methanol or hydrocarbons; both are toxic in small quantities. Fires can release poisonous carbon monoxide into the air.

Herbal Medicines and Orthopedic Surgery

Some herbal medicines and dietary supplements can affect blood clotting. This can complicate surgery and recovery if patients and doctors don't discuss ALL the medicines a patient is taking.


To date, there are no definite answers about how well melatonin works for a number of conditions or how safe it is when taken for long periods. Hundreds of melatonin studies have been published; many of them involved only small numbers of people, were not scientifically rigorous, and used unspecified types of melatonin products.

Pets and Holiday Hazards

A number of holiday decorations and treats can be hazards to a pet's health. Batteries can cause internal burns, water from tree stands and left-over food can contain bacteria, and decorations and plants can be choking hazards. Also, human medicines may be more easily in reach.

Teething Gels: A Warning

Benzocaine is a local anesthetic (medicine that numbs skin and gums). Teething gels are among the over-the-counter preparations that contain benzocaine. However, even small amounts of benzocaine are dangerous for infants; it can prevent the bloodstream from carrying oxygen throughout the body.

Unusual Sources of Lead Poisoning

At one time, the usual sources of lead poisoning were lead paint and leaded gasoline. Now, more unusual sources of lead poisoning include jewelry, cosmetics, imported herbal and traditional medicines, and even hobby supplies. Lead poisoning damages the nervous system but the symptoms can be misleading. Lead poisoning can only be diagnosed with a blood test.

October 2011

Don't Give Herbal Supplements to Infants

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be fed only with breast milk or formula until at least four to six months of age. Children have developed seizures and infections from herbal teas and remedies, lead poisoning and mercury poisoning from traditional remedies, and liver damage from dietary supplements.

Mold 101: Effects on Human Health

Mold is a non-scientific term for many types of unwanted fungi found both indoors and outdoors. Active mold growth requires moisture. Actively-growing mold damages the material it lives on, thereby impairing structural integrity. In addition, mold is associated with some untoward health effects in humans, including allergies and infections.

Poisoned at the Office?

The most frequent calls from offices to Poison Control are about drinking coffee pot cleaner instead of coffee, eating left-over food from an office party or the office refrigerator, and breathing in fumes from the photocopier.

Safe Cleanup Tips for Broken CFLs

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) contain small amounts of mercury. A small percentage of this mercury can be released into the air if the bulbs are broken. Mercury also can be released into the environment if bulbs are not recycled properly.

Acetaminophen: Easier Dosing

Acetaminophen is a very safe medicine when used in recommended doses to treat pain and fever. But too much acetaminophen can cause liver damage and even death. This has happened when parents didn't understand the concentration or measurements. New formulations of acetaminophen for children make it easier to give the correct dose.

June 2011

Fake Pot and Cocaine

Newer drugs of abuse are sending thousands of people to emergency rooms. They're called "fake pot", "fake weed", and "fake cocaine", but their effects are real and dangerous. Users cannot know exactly what they are getting when they buy and use these drugs. Some users of these drugs are ill for days and some have died.

Eating Bugs

Kids eat bugs all the time. Few if any symptoms are likely to occur. In fact, insects form a regular part of the diet for many human cultures.

Grilling Meat: Is It a Cancer Risk?

There is some evidence that people who eat a lot of charred or very well done meat have a higher risk of cancer, particularly of the breast, prostate, colon, rectum, and pancreas. To minimize the potential risks, minimize both the amount of time that meat is cooked at high heat and the amount of smoke in contact with the meat.

Skin Problems from Outdoor Plants

Mechanical injury, chemical irritation, allergic reactions, and light-sensitivity are all possible effects of exposure to certain plants – not just poison ivy.

March 2011

Are Diaper Rash Products Dangerous?

The bottom line for parents of infants and young children: products to prevent and treat diaper rash usually will not harm a child who swallows a small amount. The exception is talcum powder, which can be fatal if inhaled.

Chelation: Therapy or "Therapy"?

Chelation therapy is a treatment for heavy metal poisoning: iron, mercury, arsenic, and lead. Some people give chelation "therapy" for other conditions such as cardiovascular disease, autism, and Alzheimer's. This exposes patients to risks without benefit. A large study of chelation therapy for cardiovascular disease leads some researchers to suggest further study.

Kombucha Tea: Health Tonic or Dangerous?

Kombucha tea is a slightly effervescent, slightly alcoholic liquid for which many health claims are made. Home-brewed kombucha tea has been associated with several adverse health events. There are no scientific studies to support the many health claims made for kombucha tea, though it has a long history of use.

Lawn Chemicals

Spring can be a tough season for lawns. Homeowners sometimes use chemicals to repair winter damage and prepare the lawn for summer's rain, drought, or heat. If you decide to use chemicals to treat your lawn, choose only those chemicals which will treat your specific problem. Handle and store them safely.

Vitamin D: New Recommendations

Vitamin D, along with calcium, is essential for developing and maintaining strong bones and muscles. Some researchers have associated low vitamin D levels with chronic illnesses, but research findings about the health consequences of low vitamin D are not consistent. Taking higher doses of vitamin D should be done only with the recommendation and supervision of a health professional.

December 2010

Another Reason Not To Smoke

It is possible for heavy smokers to develop carbon monoxide poisoning. This can be severe enough to require treatment in an emergency room.

Dangerous Denture Creams?

Misuse of denture creams containing zinc was the cause of zinc poisoning in some denture wearers. Problems with dental creams are uncommon; anyone with symptoms needs a complete evaluation to determine the cause.

Do Fillings Cause Mercury Poisoning?

Mercury is a naturally occurring substance, found in air, water, and soil. It also is found in dental amalgam fillings. In sufficient quantity, mercury is known to be toxic to humans. Even so, scientific evidence, accumulated over decades, supports the view that there is no clinical evidence of mercury poisoning in people who have amalgam fillings in their mouths.

Drunk + Buzzed = Danger

Lots of alcohol plus lots of caffeine equals danger, with possible results ranging from sexual assault to automobile crashes to alcohol-induced coma or even death.

Pets, Kids, and Ice Melt Products

Ice-melting chemicals commonly contain sodium chloride or rock salt, calcium chloride, potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, and/or urea, also known as carbonyl diamide. If swallowed, they can be irritating and cause stomach distress. On the skin or paws, they can cause irritation and dryness.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil has been used as a "natural" remedy for a long time, especially for skin afflictions. There is some scientific evidence that tea tree oil can be effective for certain skin conditions. It is poisonous if swallowed and so should not be used in or around the mouth at all.

October 2010

Capsaicin: When the "Chili" Is Too Hot

Capsaicin, the active ingredient in hot peppers, can be intensely irritating on the skin, in the eyes, to the stomach and gastrointestinal tract, and if inhaled.

Button Batteries Can Kill Children

More and more children are being injured, or even dying, from swallowing button or disk batteries. This tragedy can be prevented. Batteries stuck in the esophagus must be removed as quickly as possible as severe damage can occur in just 2 hours. Batteries in the nose or ear also must be removed immediately to avoid permanent damage.

Prescription Pain Relievers and Adults

More than ever, adults are poisoning themselves by mistake with prescription opioid pain relievers. Many of these people die and others require days of hospital treatment to recover.

Reed Diffusers: Household Risk

Reed diffusers are liquid air fresheners in a narrow-necked bottle with long "sticks" inserted in to the liquid. Ingredients vary, but two common ingredients can be dangerous to a child who swallows them.

Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism

Autism is a life-long condition that begins in childhood, typically by age 2. Many people believe that there is a link between autism and childhood vaccination. There is no scientific controversy over whether vaccines cause autism: the answer is "no".

June 2010

Botulism and Honey. What's the Connection?

Botulism is a rare but dangerous type of poisoning that affects the nervous system. Honey can contain botulism spores; these spores release a toxin that can poison infants. The most dangerous effect is paralysis of the diaphragm, which means the infants cannot breathe on their own without a respirator until the disease is cured.

Inhalant Abuse - New Study Findings

Most inhalant abusers, though not all, are in their teens. Thousands of household products have been abused by inhalation. Only 25 percent of inhalant abusers treated in emergency room had no effects; many others suffered serious effects or died.

Summer Poison-Proofing

The weather is perfect for a cookout or picnic. Family and friends gather. And the kids are…getting into things like they always do. Spending a little time to think through outdoor activities can keep poisons from spoiling your fun, for adults and children alike.

Protect the Water Supply

There are many ways for drugs and personal care products to enter ground water and surface water, which include water that we drink and use for recreation. Federal guidelines for safe disposal of medicines aim to prevent unintentional poisonings, misuse and diversion of discarded drugs, and to keep drugs within engineered landfills, instead of in the water supply.

March 2010

Children's Jewelry Recall Due to Cadmium

Some children have been poisoned by lead and cadmium in children's products. Cadmium is a metal which, if swallowed, can cause kidney and bone damage. There are no proven effective treatments for excess cadmium in the body, so preventing cadmium poisoning is the most important thing.

Planning a Home Remodel?

So many poison prevention stories are about children, but when it comes to home remodeling, adults are at risk, too. Children, adults, and pets can become sick if home renovations are not carried out carefully.

BPA and the Controversy about Plastic Food Containers

Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used to harden plastic, is found in a number of consumer products, including hard plastic drinking containers and the linings of infant formula and food cans. In animal studies, BPA imitates effects of estrogen. There is controversy about whether animal studies are relevant to humans. Some scientists and consumers suggest reducing exposure to BPA.

Snakebites in March?

The beginning of warmer weather is the beginning of snakebite season. Many of these bites occur around people's homes, when the snakes are defending themselves from a perceived threat. Poisonous snakes don't always inject venom when they bite, and many snakebites are from non-poisonous snakes. Be sure to call Poison Control promptly if someone is bitten.

Suicide Prevention

If you suspect someone you know is trying to hurt him or herself, the time to act is now.

December 2009

Acetaminophen: Take It Safely

Acetaminophen is a very safe drug to take according to label instructions. In overdose, too much acetaminophen can damage the liver. In fact, acetaminophen overdose is an important cause of liver failure and liver transplants in the US.

Beverage or Medicine?

A powdered aspirin preparation looks like lemonade powder. Mixing up the two could cause problems for people who should not take aspirin, including people who are allergic to aspirin.

Carbon Monoxide and Video Games

Shortly after a hurricane in Texas, 75% of children treated for carbon monoxide poisoning had been playing video games powered by portable generators.

Kitchen Surprises and Cautions

Some ordinary kitchen ingredients can be harmful if children swallow large amounts. Examples include alcohol-based flavoring extracts, oil of wintergreen, and nutmeg. Poppy seeds can cause a positive drug screen if someone eats a lot shortly before a drug test.

Poisons and Pregnancy

There is a lot of information about avoiding drugs, alcohol, and tobacco while pregnant. There are some other poisons to be aware of if you're pregnant, including herbal medications, supplements, lead, and carbon monoxide.

October 2009

Cleaning Out the Medicine Cabinet

Cough and cold medicines are no longer recommended for children under the age of four. Ipecac syrup is no longer recommended for anyone. Mercury thermometers are now known to be a possible health risk if they break.

Taste Changes Don't Stop Poisonings

Antifreeze is a sweet-tasting poison. Studies show that adding a bittering agent to antifreeze does not decrease poisonings or suicides with antifreeze.

June 2009

Jellyfish: A Pain at the Beach

Jellyfish swim in waters off beaches and so pose a risk to human swimmers. When their tentacles touch skin, they pierce the skin and release a pain-causing substance. Treatment involves removing the tentacles and stopping the pain; both can be hard to do! Allergic reactions are possible, too.

OUCH! That Stuff Got in My Eye!

Sunscreen and insect repellent can find their way into the eyes, causing pain and irritation. Immediate rinsing with running water is the best first aid.

Food Poisoning from Fish: Ciguatera and Scombroid

Scombroid poisoning is caused by eating spoiled fish. Ciguatera fish poisoning is caused by eating fish which have themselves eaten fish contaminated with ciguatera. Neither type of fish poisoning can be detected by taste or appearance or prevented by cooking or freezing the fish. Treatment is available but symptoms may last for months or years.

Wild Mushroom Warning

There are old mushroom hunters, and there are bold mushroom hunters. There are no old, bold mushroom hunters.

March 2009

Medications Can Get Confusing!

Many calls to Poison Control are from older adults who get their medications confused. This is always cause for alarm. Sometimes it's dangerous.

December 2008

Cold Medicine Dosing Changes for Kids

There is no evidence that cough and cold medicines are safe or effective for young children. There IS evidence that children have been harmed by overdoses of these products. Problems include seizures, coma, and death.

Diabetes Medication

For young children, there is no safe dose of pills to treat diabetes. Even one pill can cause a child's blood sugar to drop dangerously low, causing seizures, coma, or death.

Prevent Cold Weather Poisonings

There are special poisoning concerns during the winter: family travel, family gatherings, carbon monoxide poisoning, and winter chemicals for the car. Follow Poison Control's prevention tips to keep your family safe this winter.

Use Acetaminophen Safely

Acetaminophen is a safe and effective pain reliever when taken according to label instructions. But in overdose, it is a leading cause of liver damage and death.

October 2008

Caution With Caustics

Caustic products cause burns on contact with skin, eyes, and the gastrointestinal tract. More than other household products, caustic substances do their damage instantly. Injury cannot be reversed, only treated.

Grab a Green Bottle

There are many types of look-alike products. It is easy for an adult or a child to mistake a cleaning product for a soft drink or a container of glue for eye drops.

Safe Use of Art Products

Art products are mixtures of chemicals and should be used correctly. It's common for children to swallow these products or get them on the skin or eye. Most of the time, the children are fine but mishaps can occur, especially eye or skin irritation.

June 2008

How Much Caffeine Is In That?

The line between enough caffeine and too much varies from person to person. People who overdo it can experience unpleasant side effects until the caffeine wears off in a few hours. People who take too many caffeine pills to stay awake can have seizures. There have even been some deaths from caffeine overdoses.

Poison Control Help When On The Road

Wherever you travel in the United States, expert help from Poison Control is just a click or phone call away. Download the webPOISONCONTROL® app, bookmark, and program 1-800-222-1222, the nationwide phone number, in your phone. Poison Control is available nationwide.  

March 2008

Cough and Cold Medicine Safety

Home remedies such as saline drops, gentle suctioning, humidity, and fluids are more effective than medicines for young children with coughs and colds. If home remedies don't work, consult the child's health care provider.

Is it a Pill or Candy?

Many medicines look like something good to eat or drink. Pay attention to what you put into your mouth!

Valentines Day: Heart Month

Everyday life is full of chances to make mistakes with our medicines. When it comes to heart medicine, too many people cause heartache by taking the wrong medicine, leaving heart medicine where a child can reach it, skipping a check-up to monitor levels of heart medicine and its effects, or treating symptoms with herbal medicines and teas, without checking with your doctor.

December 2007

Carbon Monoxide: The Invisible Killer

It's not an intriguing or novel hazard, just the persistent, invisible killer: carbon monoxide. Seriously, you still don't have a carbon monoxide alarm in every sleeping area of your home? Get one! And keep fuel-burning appliances in good repair; don't use grills or gasoline-powered tools indoors, and don't run your car in an attached garage or place a generator close to your home.

Antifreeze: Bad for Your Kids and Pets

It is dangerous to swallow antifreeze, even small amounts. For several hours after swallowing, everything seems fine. But don't be fooled - the body is busy breaking down the antifreeze (ethylene glycol) into a number of substances that affect blood chemistry, the nervous system, and kidneys. If the victim survives, there may be permanent damage to the kidneys and brain.

Yew and Paclitaxel: What Do They Have in Common?

Just because something is "natural", it isn't necessarily safe to casually eat or use. Originally, all remedies came from nature. Yew is an example of a plant with medicinal value that can be poisonous if eaten.

October 2007

Fall Berries Only LOOK Edible!

To a child, wild berries look good enough to eat. Only some of them are. Others are poisonous. Some are not actually poisonous but can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Mouse and Rat Poisons

Pesticides to kill mice, rats, and other rodents can also harm humans (and pets). Anticoagulant rodenticides are often used. These can cause bleeding if they are eaten on a regular basis (for example, a child nibbling at a bait station).

Pop Quiz about Poisons in Opera

The fall opera season has opened. To twenty-first century audiences, the following nineteenth-century abbreviated plot summaries may seem laughable. But to operatic true believers, they provide the basis for gorgeous music.

Siphoning Gasoline

Siphoning gasoline can lead to aspiration, gasoline entering the lungs. This can cause pneumonia, coma, and death.

June 2007

Are Morning Glories Poisonous?

The seeds of morning glory contain a chemical similar to LSD. Eating enough of them can cause many types of symptoms, from diarrhea to hallucinations requiring medical care.

Hand Sanitizer: What's the Real Story?

A lick of hand sanitizer won't hurt a child or anyone else. Drinking it can cause alcohol poisoning, which can cause low blood sugar, coma, and seizures – though this is not common.

Parents: Know about Inhalant Abuse

Inhalant abuse means trying to get high by breathing in vapors, fumes, or aerosol sprays. Thousands of products can be abused by inhaling. These are ordinary household products – and they are poisons. Nearly 20 percent of eighth-graders admit to abusing inhalants, but most parents don't even know about it. Inhalants can kill – even the first time.

Use DEET Safely

DEET is an insect repellant which helps prevent bites, and illnesses, from mosquitos and ticks. There are rare reports of health problems associated with the use of DEET, but most have been because of using the product incorrectly. The potential risks of West Nile Virus, Lyme disease, and other diseases caused by infected insects surpass the slight risks associated with DEET.

March 2007

Chocolate and Dogs

When swallowed by dogs, chocolate can cause nausea, vomiting, tremors, and seizures. Effects can begin within a short time. Treatment should begin quickly. There are no specific antidotes for this poisoning in animals.

Easter Lilies and Cats: A Dangerous Combination

Easter Lily is the common name for Lilium longiflorum. This fragrant seasonal plant is extremely poisonous for cats. Eating small amounts of any part of this plant can cause dangerous symptoms and lead to death from kidney failure.

Would You Eat This?

Children who mistake laxatives for chocolate are at risk for severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, and possibly dangerous fluid loss.

Poisoned? Get Expert Help.

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