Summer Poisons

As summer approaches and our children spend more time outdoors, it is important to be aware of the potential poisons in and around the home as well as out-of-doors.

National Toll-Free Number for Poison Centers 1-800-222-1222  (call 24 hrs. day/7 days week)


Approximately five to ten percent of calls to poison centers nationally involve plant exposures. Often this involves a child less than six years old eating the plant. Teach children not to ever taste or touch any plants or berries. Many look appealing but could present a problem if eaten or touched. Common plants reported by poison control centers for exposures last year were:
  • Capsicum Annuum (Chili Pepper): Often used as spices, ornamental plants or an ingredient in personal protection sprays. The pepper and seeds can cause irritation of the lips and mouth if ingested. Juice from fruits can cause acute inflammation, pain, and heavy tear production when it gets in the eyes.
  • Philodendron, Dumbcane or Dieffenbachia: Among the most popular =of all houseplants. Often found as ornamental plants in hotel lobbies, restaurants, and shopping malls. Sometimes grown outside in the southern United States. The plant contains needle like crystals within leaves that can cause irritation, burning, and inflammation of
    the mouth.
  • Pokeweed: Found in open fields and along roadsides in eastern United States and southeastern Canada. Occurs in coastal dunes and marshes from North Carolina to Texas and inland Florida. The entire plant is highly poisonous. The purple-black berries are very appealing and raw berries are extremely toxic.
  • Poison Ivy: Widespread in North America. All parts of the plant cause an irritating rash on the skin. Learn what poison ivy looks like.

► Learn more about plants that are toxic to people and pets.

Bites and Stings, Land

  • Snake-Bites: Venomous snakes are found in the wild throughout the United States except Maine and Alaska. Most bites occur between May and October. Transport to a medical facility for evaluation and possibly antivenin if indicated.
  • Bees, Wasps, Hornets, Yellow Jackets and Ants-Stings: Application of a cold compress at the site is usually enough to stop discomfort. The stinger should be removed by scraping rather than squeezing or pulling which may release additional venom. If an allergic reaction occurs, transport to a medical facility may be indicated. If a child is known to have an allergic reaction, speak to your doctor about safety treatments that may be carried.

Bites and Stings, Water

  • Jellyfish: Venom can be mild to severe. Jellyfish often travel in groups. Stings are often painful and may produce allergic like reactions. Avoid touching tentacles. Rinse with sea water. Remaining tentacles should be scraped off.
  • Stingrays: Peaceful bottom feeder. May sting or cause a puncture wound if a person unintentionally steps on the stingray. Seek treatment for wound care, tetanus prevention and poison management.

Chlorine Used in Pools

Children may get into the chlorine tablets used in home pools. If inhaled, the fumes from tablets may result in breathing difficulties. The tablets cause a burn if they are ingested or get in the eyes. Be sure to keep all chemicals out of reach. Properly prepared pool water is relatively safe if swallowed because the chlorine is very dilute.


Defined as any agent intended for preventing, or destroying any pest and may be divided into insecticide, rodenticide, herbicide etc. Some of the common household pesticides are used to kill ants, fleas, flies, mosquitoes, spiders, ticks and mice. As you use these products in and around the home, be sure to keep them out of reach of
children. They may be dangerous if ingested.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is the leading cause of poisoning deaths in the United States. CO is created by the incomplete burning of fuel. Symptoms are often misdiagnosed or unnoticed because they mimic the flu. These include fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and headache. Sources of CO include home heating sources, gas stoves, kerosene heaters, the back of pickup trucks, houseboats, and charcoal grill use without proper ventilation. Never use a grill or hibachi in a confined space such as a tent-this may lead to unintentional and possibly fatal carbon monoxide poisoning.

► Learn more about carbon monoxide poisoning and how to
protect yourself with carbon monoxide detectors.

If you think someone has been exposed to a potential poison, remain calm and call the Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222. Poison control centers provide treatment advice 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by registered pharmacists and/or nurses certified in poison information.

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