Protect your family from a poisoning emergency

March 21, 2023
Brigitta Gruenberg, Division of Public Health

Most poisoning emergencies are unexpected and happen quickly in our homes. A majority of non-fatal poisonings involve children younger than 6. For adults, poisoning is the number one cause of injury death in the United States. This week is National Poison Prevention Week, so it’s a good time to think about what you would do in a poisoning emergency.

Are young children most at risk for a poisoning accident?

Poisoning is one of the leading causes of unintentional injury deaths among all Idahoans, with children younger than 6 being most at risk. It is extremely important for those caring for small children to keep potentially poisonous items out of their reach. The Nebraska Regional Poison Center, which receives all of Idaho’s poison emergency calls, had more than 14,000 calls last year from Idaho residents. Almost half of those calls were from parents of children ages 6 and younger.

What are the most dangerous poisons for children?

The leading causes of poisoning in young children are things we commonly have in our homes and include household cleaning supplies; cosmetics and personal care products; aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen; vitamins and supplements; and toys and other foreign objects children can swallow. Many of the poison center’s calls from Idaho relate to children younger than 6 and household cleaning supplies, with 10,296 calls for liquid laundry detergents.

What are some things we can do to protect our children?

The first thing you should do is add the poison control number to your contact list in your cell phone or post it near your phone at home. That number is 1-800-222-1222. You can also order poison prevention materials with the number on them from the Idaho CareLine, which you can reach by dialing 2-1-1. The poison center is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is staffed with health professionals who have had special training in poison management.

What else can be done in the home?

Store all of your medications, laundry detergent, and cleaning supplies in cabinets that children can’t open. Teach your children to take medicine only with permission and guidance from a parent or trusted adult. Laundry detergent pods MUST be kept out of sight and reach of children. Us the locks on laundry pod containers every time after removing a pod. Identify the plants in your house or yard – some may be dangerous if they are eaten. Remove them or move them to a place where curious children can’t get to them.

What should we do if we think we have a poisoning incident?

Call 911 immediately if a person has collapsed or stopped breathing. If the person is awake and alert, call the poison control number. When you call, try to have the person’s age and weight, the container of whatever it is the person ate or drank, how long ago they consumed it, and your location. Then stay on the phone and follow instructions.

Anything else?

Other household poisons are difficult to detect and include lead, radon, and carbon monoxide. There are lots of resources and fact sheets for those as well as poisoning information at DHW’s website at

Other resources:

Brigitta Gruenberg is the Environmental Health Program manager in the Division of Public Health.  

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is dedicated to strengthening the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans. Learn more at 

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