Accidents are the leading cause of death for children under the age of 14. More children die annually from preventable injury than from all childhood diseases combined. Each year, Poison Centers handle over one million potentially poisonous exposures in children. These poisonings are preventable.

To ensure your children’s safety, make sure they know the basics about poison prevention and who to call with a suspected poisoning.Mother and child talking

Discussion Objectives:

  1. Children should understand that many products in their own homes are poisonous.
  2. Poisons can look, smell, and taste good.
  3. Poisons can be eaten, inhaled, spilled on the skin, or splashed in one’s eyes.
  4. Older children should understand basic first aid for poisonings.

Develop Interest

Ask about the “Poison Help” logo and what it means. Do they know, if there is a poisoning, that they can call 1-800-222-1222 anywhere in the United States and talk to the nearest poison center? Has anyone they know ever called a poison center?

Discussion Points

  • What is a poison?
    • Something that can harm you when you are exposed to it.
  • There are several types of poisoning; including food poisoning, lead poisoning, pill poisoning, and more.
    • Poisonous substances are all around us; household poisons (medications, cleaning chemicals), garage poisons (insecticides, car products), and outside poisons (plants and mushrooms).
  • People can be exposed (poisoned) in four different ways: by eating a poison (mushrooms), inhaling a poison (bug spray or smoke), spilling a poison on the skin (cleaners, car chemicals), or spraying something in the eyes (glass cleaner).
  • Some poisons are obvious, such as household cleaners. However, some poisons are not obvious. It's easy for young children to confuse poisons with something safe.
    • Medicine can taste or look like candy, glass cleaner looks like a blue sports drink, mouthwash smells minty, and poisonous mushrooms look like mushrooms from the grocery store. To reduce risk, make sure to store these out of children’s reach and in child-resistant cabinets.
  • Poisons can smell good, such as mouthwash or perfume. Poisons can taste good, such as medications. Poisons can look pretty, such as glass cleaner.
  • Medications and vitamins can be dangerous when more than the recommended dosage is taken. Some medications can be life-threatening with just one tablet.
  • People who have been poisoned may not look sick. Some poisons do not hurt the person right away. Even if the person appears fine, always call the poison center.
  • Be prepared! Have the poison center phone number 1-800-222-1222 on or near the phone to ensure your family’s safety.
  • Most people do NOT have to go to the hospital when they are poisoned.
  • Pets can also be poisoned.

What to do if you witness/suspect a poisoning?

  • First, take the poison away, then:
    • If ingested: give some water to drink
    • If on the skin: wash the area with soap and water
    • If inhaled: get fresh air through the lungs
    • If in eyes: flush eyes with slightly warm water
  • Report the incident to an adult
  • Get help: Call 1-800-222-1222 or call 911
  • Calmly explain what happened to the Poison Center specialist or 911 operator

The Iowa Poison Control Center (IPCC) provides free 24-hour immediate treatment advice for poison emergencies through a national toll-free telephone hotline.

If you suspect a poisoning, call the Poison Control Number at 1-800-222-1222.