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When accidents happen with chemicals, medicine, or household items, call Poison Help. Get help right away from a local poison expert.

If someone is unconscious or has trouble breathing, call 911.


General Questions on Poisons

General Questions on Poisons

What is a poison?

A poison is anything that can harm someone if it is 1) used in the wrong way, 2) used by the wrong person, or 3) used in the wrong amount. Poisons may harm you when they get in your eyes or on your skin. Other poisons may harm you if you breathe them in or swallow them.

What are the different forms of poison?

Poison comes in four forms: solids (such as medicine pills or tablets), liquids (such as household cleaners including bleach), sprays (such as spray cleaners) and gases (such as carbon monoxide).

Examples of poisons include:

  • Alcohol
  • Carbon monoxide (CO) gas
  • Medicines, such as prescription (painkillers, iron pills), over-the-counter (cough and cold medicines), and illegal drugs (cocaine, heroin)
  • Food supplements, such as vitamins, minerals, and herbal products
  • Personal care products, such as nail polish and nail polish remover, cologne, aftershave, deodorant, mouthwash, hydrogen peroxide, makeup, soap, contact lens solution, lotion, baby oil, and diaper rash products
  • Household and automotive chemicals or products, including bleach, laundry or dish detergent, furniture polish, cleanser, drain and toilet bowl cleaner, antifreeze, gasoline, paint, varnish, bug and weed killers
  • Other household items (batteries, lighter fluid, alcohol, cigarettes)
  • Plants, including many house plants, outdoor plants, and mushrooms
  • Bites and stings, including scorpion, wasp, and bee stings, as well as snake and spider bites
  • Hazardous chemicals at work and in the environment

What does a poisoned person look like?

A poisoned person may or may not look, act, or feel sick. If you think someone has been poisoned, right away call the toll-free Poison Help line (1-800-222-1222), which connects you to your local poison center. Do not wait for signs of poisoning.

Why are so many poisonings related to children under age 6?

Children under age 6 are carefree and learn by exploring the world around them. What children see and can reach, they often put in their mouths. Parents and other caregivers should teach children not to put objects in their mouths.

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