Personal Safety

Poison Prevention: Common Substances, Tips, Statistics & More

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 Poison control hotline number with assorted medical pills
Poisoning can cause serious injury and even death.

If you are concerned that someone has been poisoned, call the poison emergency number immediately at 1-800-222-1222.

The moment you think someone has suffered from any kind of poisoning, you should call for help. Many substances can be responsible for the poisoning, and getting assistance from a professional is the best way you can help save a life.

When Is Poison Prevention Week & Month?

National Poison Prevention Week is during the third full week of March every year, and March is considered National Poison Prevention Month. This time is an opportunity to highlight the poisoning dangers for people of all ages and refresh your knowledge on how to keep those around you safe.

Poisonous Substances

Many items can be dangerous if ingested inappropriately or misused in any way. Here’s a list of some common poisonous substances.


Food that’s inadequately prepared, cooked, stored, and consumed can cause foodborne illness. The most common causes of food poisoning are infectious organisms (e.g., bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other toxins).

Top 6 Food Poisoning Symptoms

  1. Upset stomach
  2. Abdominal cramps
  3. Nausea and vomiting
  4. Diarrhea
  5. Fever
  6. Dehydration

Severe cases of food poisoning can result in long-term health problems and even death.


Parents and guardians need to teach the safety of using over-the-counter medication with their children. The Over-The-Counter (OTC) Medicine Safety program can be a great resource for facilitating this conversation.

Consider where you store all medications in your home and know who has access to them. This includes both over-the-counter medicine and prescriptions.

You should dispose of any expired drugs or drugs that are no longer needed — the best way is to participate in community take-back days. Contact your local police department or pharmacy to find out when these days are. Some police departments have safe medication drop-off sites inside their departments year-round.

Another way to dispose of drugs is to flush them down the toilet. Some medications have instructions on their labels that specifically say they should be flushed down the toilet as soon as they’re no longer needed because they pose an especially dangerous threat to children and pets.

Here’s a list of medicines recommended for disposal by flushing (PDF), according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, you should not flush medications down the toilet unless the label or patient information pamphlet instructs you to do so as some medicines could be harmful to the environment.

Top 8 Poisons In Your Home To Look Out For

You should store the following items in high places, away from children and pets. They should also be stored in their original containers, so there is no confusion as to what the product could be. You can also store these items in cabinets with child-safety locks, but please remember that these are not always 100% effective and could be left open accidentally.

  1. Tobacco, e-cigarettes, and nicotine products
  2. Alcohol
  3. Cleaning supplies (e.g., laundry detergents, dishwasher detergents, soaps, disinfectants, etc.)
  4. Pesticides and insect repellents
  5. Batteries, including button batteries (commonly found in musical greeting cards and key fobs)
  6. Oils (e.g., essential oils, fragrance oils, tiki torch oil, engine oil, etc.)
  7. Personal hygiene products (e.g., lens disinfectants, hand sanitizers, etc.)
  8. Other chemicals

This video of an average home tour may help you secure potentially hazardous substances and keep your children and pets safe.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a silent killer because it’s an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas. CO poisoning can lead to severe illness and death. The majority of CO poisoning cases occur in the winter months or during power outages. CO detectors should be installed in any home with a fuel-burning appliance/heater, fireplace, or attached garage — find the best CO detectors for your home to help protect your family.

How To Treat Poisoning

Treatment can depend on the person’s symptoms, age, and the substance that caused the poisoning.

The best thing to do is call the poison helpline at 1-800-222-1222. An expert will answer your call and give you instructions on how you can best help the person.

7 Poison Prevention & Safety Tips

  1. Display the poison help number in your home and at work and put the number on your phone: 1-800-222-1222
    1. You can also text POISON to 797979 to save the phone number in your cell phone
    2. All calls are free, confidential, and answered by experts
    3. The line is available for calls 24/7/365
  2. Only take prescription medications that are prescribed directly to you by a healthcare professional and don’t share them with others
  3. Follow the dosage instructions for all medications
  4. Monitor the use of medicines for minors
  5. Follow the instructions for household chemicals
  6. Don’t mix household products (e.g., mixing bleach and ammonia can result in toxic gases)
  7. Wear protective clothing and gear when using pesticides or other chemicals
An infographic of poison prevention and safety tips

What Is The Poison Prevention Packaging Act?

The Poison Prevention Packaging Act (PPPA) requires specific household substances to be packaged in child-resistant packaging. This packaging is designed to be difficult for children under 5 years old to open but not difficult for most adults.

For elderly and disabled individuals, there are regulated products available for purchase on store shelves that do not comply with the PPPA, but they carry a warning that they should not be in households with children.

7 Alarming Poison-Related Statistics In 2021

Here are some shocking stats we compiled from the American Association of Poison Control Centers, the CDC, and

  1. In 2020, Americans reported exposure to a poison control center every 15 seconds.
  2. There were 633 exposures reported per 100k people in 2021.
  3. There were 2,128,198 human exposures to poison reported in 2021 (a 28.9% increase from 2019).
  4. 37.9% of poison exposures are in children younger than 6 years old.
  5. 1 in 6 Americans (48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases every year.
  6. 77% of cases were the result of unintentional exposure to a substance. (15% were suspected of suicide).
  7. In 2020, 93% of exposures reported to local poison control centers occur in the home.
An infographic of poisoning statistics

Preparation Can Make A Difference

As with all emergencies, it’s best to prepare in advance and know what you need to do if disaster strikes. We encourage you to revisit this article annually (or more often if you work closely with common poison-causing substances) to remind yourself of what you should do if you suspect someone has been poisoned.

And don’t forget to refresh your memory and watch out for symptoms of poisoning in your dog too. Pets can get into poisonous substances and suffer immensely as well.

There are other emergencies we recommend reading up on, as well to ensure you are familiar with what steps to take if you face a disaster. See our emergency preparedness checklist to get ready for the next hurricane, tornado, winter storm, pandemic, and more.

Kimberly Alt

Kimberly is our home security expert and has been writing about security and safety since 2013, covering everything from security systems and home automation to identity theft protection, home warranties, medical alert systems, and more. She has personally tested hundreds of system components and interfaced with dozens of home security companies to find out what’s happening behind the scenes. Her work has appeared in many notable brands, including The New York Times' Wirecutter, Reader's Digest, Forbes, People, Woman's World, and Huffington Post. In 2018, she had her first child, which opened up a whole new avenue of security experience with baby gear. She wanted to purchase the safest items for her family. Kimberly received her Bachelor of Arts in multimedia journalism from Simpson College. Her natural curiosity helps her research as she seeks the truth when learning about, comparing, and personally testing products and services.

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