The Poison Post
Subscribe to The Poison Post®
It's a free, quarterly e-newsletter that will help keep you and your family safe from poison.
Onions are pungent, contain plentiful nutrients, and have many potential health benefits. When cut or damaged, onions can cause eye irritation and tear production due to the formation of a sulfur-containing chemical (called “lachrymatory factor”).
Chlorine dioxide and sodium chlorite are highly reactive disinfectants used to treat public water systems. They are also low-concentration ingredients in some mouthwash products. A sip is unlikely to cause anything beyond mild irritation, nausea, and short-term vomiting. Large amounts can oxidize red blood cells, making them incapable of carrying oxygen.
The Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) is a wildflower that blooms from June to October. They have bright yellow, daisy-like petals. Although the black-eyed Susan has not been known to poison humans, it should not be eaten. It can cause allergic skin reactions and asthma attacks in people sensitive to the plant.
Hair chalks are a fun, temporary way that anyone can use to alter their hair color. Hair chalks are made of substances like bentonite, calcium carbonate, and mica with added pigment. They are considered minimally toxic and not expected to result in serious injury except in the case of allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to the dye.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
webPOISONCONTROL® is the first online triage tool and app to provide individualized guidance for poison emergencies. It was developed by the National Capital Poison Center. webPOISONCONTROL guides users faced with a poison emergency through a series of simple questions leading to action recommendations.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate. Both sodium and bicarbonate can cause serious toxicity if too much is swallowed.
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.
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.
Lamp oil can provide warm, glowing light. If swallowed, however, lamp oil can cause serious injury that might not be apparent right away.
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.
Salvia is a hallucinogen that is legal to buy in some states. Teenagers have access to Salvia more easily than other drugs of abuse.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Brown recluse spiders are rarely seen or identified in the United States and a bite often is not felt when it happens. Treatment includes treating the wound and preventing infection.
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.
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 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 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.
"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.
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
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 often contain the wrong information - or no information - about treating poisonings.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Keep your children safe during travel and holiday events by following seasonal tips from Poison Control.
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.
"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.
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.
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 pharmacies may allow you to purchase prescription medicines without a prescription. The medicines they send may be fake, wrong, or contaminated.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Shortly after a hurricane in Texas, 75% of children treated for carbon monoxide poisoning had been playing video games powered by portable generators.
Liquid from glow sticks can cause alarming eye pain but rarely cause injury.
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.
Scombroid poisoning occurs when people eat fish that were not properly stored. The appearance and taste of the fish is usually normal and cooking or freezing the fish cannot prevent scombroid. Scombroid poisoning can be scary and uncomfortable, but most people recover with simple treatment.
There are old mushroom hunters, and there are bold mushroom hunters. There are no old, bold mushroom hunters.
Many calls to Poison Control are from older adults who get their medications confused. This is always cause for alarm. Sometimes it's dangerous.
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.
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.
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 webPOISONCONTROL.org, and program 1-800-222-1222, the nationwide phone number, in your phone. Poison Control is available nationwide.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Poisoned? Get Expert Help.
Don't guess what you should do. Get accurate Poison Control answers online or by phone. Both are free and confidential.
or CALL 1-800-222-1222
Save the poison control number and the link to online help NOW! Text-to-save or download directly to save our vcard to your computer and smartphone contacts.
webPOISONCONTROL® is funded entirely through generous private contributions. Your donation to our 501(c)(3) charitable organization will help us maintain and expand this free service so that others can get life-saving help for poison exposures.
Get the App!Download the free