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Facts About Poisons

Children are naturally inquisitive and love to explore their world. Infants tend to put everything in their mouth. And toddlers grab whatever looks interesting. Adolescents may experiment with drugs and other mind-altering substances. Consider these facts about poisonings in the U.S.:

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

  • 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."

  • When a medicine is given is the leading cause of medicine errors in children. 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.

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

  • Medicines are the leading cause of poisoning in children. Poisoning by makeup and personal care products is the next most common cause. Other causes are plants, cleaning products, pesticides, paints, and solvents.

  • More than 9 in 10 visits to the ER by children under 5 years old are because of a child getting into a medicine when an adult is not looking. Mistakes in how much medicine is given make up the rest of ER visits by children in this age group.

The good news is that getting treatment right away can prevent most serious problems. But preventing poisoning is always the best cure.

Be prepared for a poisoning emergency by posting the poison center phone number where you can easily see it. Or program it into your phone.

The national toll-free poison control center number is 800-222-1222. Your call will be routed to your local poison control center.

If you have a poisoning emergency, call your local poison center right away. If the child has collapsed or is not breathing, call 911.

Online Medical Reviewer: Adler, Liora C, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Finke, Amy, RN, BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 11/1/2016
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