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How to Talk About Poisons

Poison is not a topic that people often talk about, but you should. The best way to prevent poisoning is to learn and talk about your risks before an emergency.

What to say

  • Never call medicine "candy." This can be confusing to children.
  • People use many products that they may not think of as poisons. Remind people that certain everyday products can be poisonous.
  • Explain that some poisons, such as carbon monoxide, cannot be seen or smelled—but they are still dangerous.
  • Make sure everyone knows what to do if a poisoning happens: Right away call the toll-free Poison Help line (1-800-222-1222), which connects you to your local poison center.

When to talk about poison prevention

You can bring up the topic of poison prevention at any time: when you are eating dinner with your family, driving your children to soccer practice, speaking to older adults regarding their medicines, at parent-teacher meetings, and other community events. Here are some examples of times to talk about poisons.

At work

Remind colleagues who work outside about wearing protective clothing when using spray products. Talk to your human resources department about distributing information about poisons and how to protect yourself at work. Visit the Resources section for information or order materials from the HRSA Information Center.

Health care providers

If you are a health care provider, use every patient's visit as an opportunity to educate about poison prevention. Remind patients that they should right away contact the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222, which connects you to your local poison center, if they think someone may have been poisoned—even if they are not sure. 

Ask patients at every visit about how they store their medications and whether they have a problem differentiating medicines.


During spring cleaning, encourage your family to turn on fans and open windows when using chemicals. Tell people in your home to keep all products in their original containers. Do not use food containers (such as cups or bottles) to store household cleaners and other chemicals or products.


During holidays, remind children why it is important for an adult to check all Halloween treats before the eating them. Additionally, during the winter season, talk to your friends about keeping mistletoe in a place that cannot be reached by young children or pets.

National Poison Prevention Week

During National Poison Prevention Week (the third full week of March each year), partner with your local poison center to help educate your community about poisoning risks and what to do about them. Consider adding a link on your or your company’s website, personal blog, or Facebook page to highlight some general facts about poisoning that you have learned from this site.

Call for help

Remember, if you suspect that you or someone you know has been poisoned, immediately call the toll-free Poison Help line (1-800-222-1222), which connects you to your local poison center.