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September 2016 – First Aid for Poisonings

First Aid for Poisonings

By Stefanie Baines, MA, CHES
Education Coordinator, The University of Kansas Hospital Poison Control Center

The 1-800-222-1222 Poison Help line is the number to call when you have a poison emergency or simply need poison information.  Whether you are a parent of a curious toddler who just drank a cleaning product or a nurse in an emergency department where a patient arrived after taking an overdose of his own medications, the poison center can help. In 2014, poison centers served 323 million people, nationwide.

Why should I call the Poison Help line?

Poison Centers are staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by specially trained nurses, pharmacists, and doctors.  The call is free and you will get expert advice fast, over the phone.

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.

First Aid for Poisoning

Has the person collapsed, having a seizure, or stopped breathing?

  • Call 911 or your local emergency number right away.

Poison in the eyes?    

  • Rinse eyes with running water for 15 to 20 minutes.  Rinse from the top of the nose toward the side of the face, away from the other eye.
  • DO NOT use eye drops.
  • Call 1-800-222-1222

Poison on the skin?     

  • Take off any clothing or jewelry that the poison touched.
  • Rinse skin with running water for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Call 1-800-222-1222

Inhaled poison?       

  • Get to fresh air right away.
  • Call 1-800-222-1222
  • If you smell gas, call 911 or the fire department and your local gas company to check for gas leaks.

Poison in the mouth or swallowed a poison?

  • Gently remove any remaining poison from the mouth.
  • Call 1-800-222-1222 right away, DO NOT wait for symptoms to appear.
  • NEVER make the victim throw up.
  • If possible, bring the product with you to the phone.
  • If you have to go to the Emergency Department, take the container or substance with you.

Poison Safety

  • Lock up medicines and household products, where children cannot see or reach them.
  • Store products only in their original containers.
  • Use child-resistant packaging…but remember, NOTHING is childproof!
  • Keep purses, diaper bags, work and travel bags up and out of reach of small children.
  • Never call medicine “candy.”  Poisons may look like food or drink.  Teach children to ask an adult before tasting anything.
  • Program the Poison Help Line Number, 1-800-222-1222, in your home, work, and cell phones.  You can also put the number on your refrigerator or another place in your home or office where all caregivers can see it.


Poisonings can happen to anyone.  When in doubt, check it out!  Remember the poison help number is not just for emergencies, you can call with questions as well.  All calls are free and confidential.