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Facts About Poisons

Children are naturally curious and love to explore their world. Babies tend to put everything in their mouth. And toddlers grab whatever looks interesting. Tweens and teens may experiment with drugs and other mind-altering substances. Here are some facts about poisonings in the U.S.:

  • Each year, poison control centers get more than 1.1 million calls about accidental poisonings of children ages 5 and under.  

  • More than 9 in 10 poisonings in children occur in the home.

  • Calls to poison control centers peak between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. Dinnertime is so busy for most families that parents may not be able to pay close attention. It is such a common time of day for childhood poisonings that poison center staff call this time of day the "arsenic hour."

  • Medicines are the leading cause of poisoning in children. There are many causes of medicine error. The most common is when a medicine is not given at the correct time, or when the spacing between doses is incorrect. About a third are mistakes in how much medicine is given. About another third are mistakes in measuring out the medicine. You can help prevent these errors by always using the dosing device that comes with the medicine. Also talk with your child's healthcare provider about when to give medicine.

  • Poisoning by makeup and personal care products is the next most common cause. Other causes are plants, cleaning products, pesticides, paints, solvents, and fumes and vapors such as carbon monoxide.

Getting your child treatment right away can prevent most serious problems. But preventing poisoning is always the best solution. Use the dosing device that comes with your child’s medicine. Talk with your child's healthcare provider about when to give medicine. Put personal care supplies, chemicals, and plants out of reach.

If you have a poisoning emergency, call Poison Control right away. The national toll-free number is 800-222-1222. Your call will be routed to your local poison control center. Be prepared for a poisoning emergency by posting the phone number where you can easily see it. Or program it into your phone.

If your child has collapsed or is not breathing, call 911.

Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith RN MSN CCRC
Online Medical Reviewer: Donna Freeborn PhD CNM FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: Eric Perez MD
Date Last Reviewed: 11/1/2018
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