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Winter Tips

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

Many people think poinsettias and Christmas cacti are poisonous. They are not, but mistletoe should be kept where it cannot be reached by young children or pets. Here are some other dangers to watch out for in winter.


  • Antifreeze is a poisonous liquid used in cars. It has a sweet taste that children and animals like. If even a little is swallowed, it can be harmful and can cause kidney damage and death.
  • Keep antifreeze, household cleaners, and all chemicals in the containers they came in with a tight cap and keep away from children and pets.
  • Before throwing away an antifreeze container, rinse it with water, and replace the safety cap.

Snow salt

  • Salt used on driveways and sidewalks in winter can harm a pet or child if eaten.
  • Store such salt out of reach and in a locked cabinet.


  • Avoid using glass mercury thermometers. They can break in a child's mouth. Instead, use a digital thermometer.
  • Stay with children when taking their temperature.
  • Spilled mercury should be cleaned up properly as it is a hazardous waste. Call the Poison Help line (1-800-222-1222), which connects you to your local poison center, or your local health department for advice.

Carbon monoxide (CO)

  • CO is a poisonous gas and has no color, odor, or taste. All fuel-burning devices make CO, mostly when they are not working properly or are not used in a ventilated space. CO can collect in closed areas.
  • Sources of CO include gas furnaces, gas water heaters, gas stoves, gas ovens, kerosene space heaters, wood and gas fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, power generators, and car engines. 
  • People at greatest risk for CO poisoning include pregnant women, infants, young children, older people, people with diseases that affect breathing, and people with heart disease. 
  • Signs of CO poisoning are similar to signs of the flu and some cold-weather viruses: Headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and confusion. 

To prevent CO poisoning in your home

  • Have at least one CO detector in your home. The best places for a CO detector are near bedrooms and close to furnaces. 
  • Have your heating system, vents, and chimney checked every year by experts. 
  • Always follow product instructions for installing and repairing appliances that burn fuel. 
  • Never burn charcoal inside a house or garage. 
  • Never use a gas oven to heat a house or apartment or use unvented fuel-burning devices indoors. 
  • Never run a car in a closed garage.

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.