National Poison Prevention Week is designated as the third week in March every year to highlight the dangers of poisonings and how to prevent them. 

Accidental poisonings are a leading public health problem.

  • More than 2 million poisonings are reported each year to the 56 poison control centers across the country.
  • More than 90 percent of these poisonings occur in the home.
  • The majority of non-fatal poisonings occur in children younger than 6 years old.
  • Although children younger than 6 years accounted for about half of all the poison exposure calls to poison center in 2010, adults accounted for 92 percent of all poison-related deaths reported to poison centers. 
  • Poisoning is now the leading cause of death from injuries in the United States as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics.

When spring is approaching, there are numerous things to keep in mind to help prevent accidental poisonings. Simple tips can keep your family safe as you begin spring cleaning and working in your yard.

Household Cleaners and Other Chemicals

  • Lock up pesticides and household chemicals out of the reach of children – preferably in a high cabinet.
  • Keep poisons in the containers they came in with the original label intact. Do not use food containers to store household cleaners and other strong chemicals.
  • Never mix chemicals. Doing so can create a poisonous gas.
  • Turn on fans and open windows when using strong chemicals. Wear masks or respirators when recommended.
  • Do not expose your skin to strong chemicals. Drain openers, toilet cleaners, rust removers, and oven cleaners can cause burns.
  • Never sniff containers to see what’s inside.
  • Discard old or outdated products. First aid advice on those containers may be incorrect or outdated. 


  • Pesticide labels provide instructions about proper handling, use, and application rates of the product, and precautions to protect people and the environment.
  • Pesticides can be absorbed through the skin or by inhalation.
  • Pesticides can be extremely poisonous. Stay away from areas that have been sprayed until the spray has dried for at least one hour.
  • Wear protective clothing when using spray products. Put on a long-sleeve shirt, long pants, socks, shoes, and gloves. Leather shoes and gloves do not offer full protection so be sure to remove and wash clothing after using chemicals.
  • If pesticides are splashed onto the skin, rinse with running water for 15-20 minutes. 

What Should You Do If You Suspect Someone Has Been Poisoned?

  • DO stay calm.
  • DO call the Cincinnati Drug and Poison Information Center immediately.
  • DO be prepared to give the facts (age, weight, etc.).
  • DO have the label ready when you call.
  • DO listen carefully and follow instructions exactly.

It’s important to remember that almost anything has the potential to be poisonous if used in the wrong way, in the wrong amount, or by the wrong person.

Poison centers are your first resource for advice and help in the event of an actual or suspected poisoning.

The toll-free Poison Help line will connect callers to their local poison center.

Help is a phone call away, and knowing what to do when a poisoning exposure occurs can be the difference between a close call and a fatality.

The phone number 1-800-222-1222.

Post it somewhere in your home where others will see it and program it in your home and mobile phones.

The toll-free Poison Help number works anywhere in the United States, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year.

When accidents happen with pesticides, chemicals, medicine or household products, call Poison Help and get help right away from a local poison expert.

National Poison Prevention Week is a great way to raise awareness about ways to prevent unintentional poisonings. It is the perfect opportunity to inspect your home for medicines or household products such as detergents, cleaning products, pesticides and fertilizers that may not be stored properly.

Take steps to correct the situation immediately by contacting your local hazardous household waste and drug drop-off programs. 

− By Ellen Skalski, RN, BS, of the Drug and Poison Information Center, Cincinnati Children’s