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Summer Tips

The following tips are primarily for the summer season, but be aware of them all year round.

Summer is a time for enjoying the outdoors. However, it is important to remember that these favored months can bring an increase in the incidence of poisoning accidents for our children and others.

Food poisoning

  • Always wash hands and counters before preparing food. Use clean utensils for cooking and serving.
  • Store, cook, and reheat food at the proper temperatures. 
  • Refrigerated foods should not be left out at temperatures above 40 degrees F (5 degrees C). The following foods, and others, can quickly spoil and become unsafe: party platters, meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products, eggs, mayonnaise, and cooked vegetables.
  • Do not let food sit out at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Wash hands, cutting boards, utensils, and dishes with hot, soapy water after handling raw meat, poultry, or seafood.
  • Watch for signs of food poisoning. They include fever, headache, diarrhea, stomach pains, nausea, and vomiting.

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.


  • Only experts can tell poisonous mushrooms from safe mushrooms.
  • Poisonous mushrooms, called "death caps," often grow in yards and parks.
  • Eating even a few bites of certain mushrooms can cause liver damage that can kill you.


  • If you are allergic to poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac, touching it can cause blisters on your skin. 
  • If someone touches one of these plants, rinse right away with running water for at least five minutes.
  • Unless you are a plant expert, do not pick your own foods to eat in the wild.
  • Poison center experts may not be able to identify plants on the phone, so it is important before a poisoning occurs to learn the names of plants around your home.

Common poisonous plants

Common name Botanical name
Azalea, rhododendron Rhododendron
Caladium Caladium
Castor bean Ricinis communis
Daffodil Narcissus
Deadly nightshade Atropa belladonna
Dumbcane Dieffenbachia
Elephant Ear Colocasia esculenta
Foxglove Digitalis purpurea
Holly Ilex
Iris Iris
Jerusalem cherry Solanum pseudocapsicum
Jimson weed Datura stramonium
Lantana Lantana camara
Lily-of-the-valley Convallaria majalis
Mayapple Podophyllum peltatum
Mistletoe Viscum album
American Mistletoe Phoradendron flavescens
Morning glory Ipomoea
Mountain laurel Kalmia Iatifolia
Mushrooms Assorted
Nightshade Salanum spp.
Oleander Nerium oleander
Peace lily Spathiphyllum
Philodendron Philodendron
Pokeweed Phytolacca americana
Pothos Epipremnum aureum
Yew Taxus

Insect bites

  • Be alert to insects that may bite or sting, particularly bees, wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets. After a sting, the skin will show redness and swelling and may be itchy and painful.
  • Insect stings may cause serious problems and even death for those who are allergic to them. 
  • Go to a hospital right away if you are stung and have any of these signs: hives, dizziness, breathing trouble, or swelling around eyes and mouth.

Snake bites

  • If a poisonous snake bites you or someone you know, right away call the Poison Help line (1-800-222-1222), which connects you to your local poison center.
  • The experts at your poison center will determine if the snake is poisonous. They will tell you what signs to watch for and what to do.
  • If the snake is not poisonous, you will need to wash the wound. Check with your doctor to find out if you need a tetanus booster shot.

Spider bites

  • Most spider and tick bites do not cause harm, but there are some spiders that can cause illness in some people. Two common spiders that can harm you are the female black widow and the brown recluse. A bite from one of these spiders can cause serious problems in a child, an older adult, or a person in poor health, but rarely causes death.
  • The female black widow is a black, shiny spider. It has a red or orange hourglass shape on its underside. Within two hours after being bitten by one, you may feel stomach pain, dizziness, and muscle stiffness. You may have trouble breathing.
  • The brown recluse is a yellowish-tan to dark brown spider. It has a small body and long legs. The brown recluse has a dark violin shape on its body. Within 36 hours after being bitten, you may see or feel signs of poisoning. You may feel restless and have fever, chills, nausea, weakness, a rash, or joint pain. A blister or wound may develop at the bite site, possibly in the shaped of a bull's eye (a blister with rings around). If the wound worsens, see a doctor. Most likely you will not need antibiotics.
  • States known to be home to the brown recluse are AL, AR, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MO, MS, NC, NE, NM, OH, OK, SC, TN, and TX.

Insect spray or lotion

  • Be sure to check the label on any insect repellent. Be aware that most contain DEET, which can be dangerous in large quantities.
  • Have an adult apply repellent to children. When using repellent on a child, put a little on your own hands, then rub them on your child. Avoid the eyes and mouth, and use only a little around the ears.
  • Use separate products when there is a need for insect spray and sunscreen. 
  • Follow the label instructions. 
  • Do not use sunscreen that contains DEET. 
  • Repeatedly applying a product with DEET can increase the risk of harmful effects.
  • For most products, after returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water. 
  • Check the label of the product you are using for more advice.

Alcoholic drinks and products

  • Alcohol can be a deadly poison for children because they are small and their livers are not fully developed. All of the following are dangerous for children: beer, wine, mixed drinks, other alcoholic beverages, facial cleaners, and mouthwash. Therefore, do not leave products containing alcohol where children can reach them.
  • Alcohol will make a child sleepy. The child can develop low blood sugar. This can lead to seizures, coma, and death.
  • Be alert at parties and gatherings. Children may find cups containing leftover alcohol within their reach.

Other poison risks to watch for

  • Lighter fluid, gasoline, torch and lamp oils can be deadly if swallowed. Watch children closely at all times when these are being used.
  • Use camp stoves, grills and generators outside, never inside buildings or tents.
  • Inhaling chlorine products can irritate the respiratory system. Homeowners who have swimming pools should store pool chemicals in a safe and secure place, out of children’s reach.