Poisonings can happen for a variety of reasons. It is important to note that no two poisonings are the same and that people of all ages can experience a poisoning. Review the topics below to learn more about the most common sources of poisoning and tips on poison prevention:
- Alcohol: Alcohol poisoning occurs when there is too much alcohol in your bloodstream. Alcohol poisoning symptoms include mental confusion, vomiting, slow breathing, seizures, and more. Alcohol poisoning is more commonly seen in adults but can also be seen in children as well. Childhood incidents increase during the holiday season when children have access to leftover cocktails or holiday gifts containing very concentrated amounts of alcohol, such as perfume, cologne, and aftershave.
- Carbon Monoxide: Carbon monoxide is the leading cause of death by poisoning each year, with over 500 unintentional and 1,700 suicide deaths in the United States. Carbon monoxide, also known as the “silent killer”, is emitted by devices that burn fuel such as furnaces, cars, fireplaces, etc. Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when there is too much carbon monoxide in the air, which replaces the oxygen in our red blood cells.
- Tobacco and Nicotine Products: Please make sure to keep tobacco and nicotine products up and away and out of reach of children. Calls to poison centers about curious children eating cigarettes, cigars, and the "butts" or children puffing on an e-cigarette are increasing. Nicotine is dangerous if swallowed and can lead to vomiting, sweating, and possible seizures.
- Food: Food poisoning is a common problem which is more frequent during the summer and the holidays. Most cases are the result of improper cooking and storage of foods, and by poor hygiene (not washing hands). Food poisoning symptoms range from nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and more. Most instances of food poisoning will resolve without medical treatment.
- Mushrooms: Children occasionally eat unknown wild mushrooms, but adults can also be victims of poisonous mushrooms. In these cases, the person has mistakenly picked a poisonous mushroom. Make sure to check your outdoor area before letting children or pets play outside. If someone eats a wild mushroom, call our poison control number immediately to discuss mushroom poisoning treatment.
- Plants: House plants and garden plants are a common cause of poisoning in children. Determine if your plants are toxic by using our Plant Guide and remove plants that are considered dangerous. Because the digestion of plant material can take time, the signs of poisoning may not show up right away. It is crucial to act quickly and contact the Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 for immediate treatment advice.
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 there has been a poisoning, please call our poison control center number at 1-800-122-2222.