Poisoning in Children

Poisons are substances that interfere with the normal functioning of the body. With some substances, a minute dose can be fatal; other substances, such as certain medications, are nontoxic in small amounts, but dangerous when taken in large doses. Many common household items can be toxic. These include insecticides, mothballs, paint, pesticides, fuels, polishes, soaps, and solvents. Hundreds of plants are also poisonous.

The key to dealing with poisoning is to call your local poison control center. Poison control centers exist in every state, and emergency personnel can give immediate instructions on how to proceed in the event of poisoning. The control centers can also answer questions about the toxicity of specific products and plants.

Find the number of your regional center and keep it, as well as the number for the American Association of Poison Control Centers (1.800.222-1222) near your phone before you need it.

Immediate Care for Poisoning

If you or someone in your household or workplace has swallowed a poisonous substance, call your poison control center immediately—unless the person is unconscious or having convulsions; in that case, call 911 or your local emergency number.

Be ready to provide the following information: the age and weight of the person, what was ingested (have the bottle or container with you), when it was ingested, how much was taken, how the victim is feeling or acting at that moment, and your name and phone number.

If you are instructed to go to a hospital emergency room, bring the container of the poison or a sample of the substance with you.

You should keep a bottle of syrup of ipecac on hand to induce vomiting—it is available without a prescription at pharmacies. But you should not use it unless instructed to do so by the poison control center or a physician. Some corrosive chemicals, such as bleach, and petroleum products, such as gasoline, can cause more harm if they are brought up.


The Complete Home Wellness Handbook

John Edward Swartzberg, M.D., F.A.C.P., Sheldon Margen, M.D., and the editors of the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter

Updated by Remedy Health Media

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at HealthCommunities.com

Published: 29 Jul 2010

Last Modified: 12 Feb 2015