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Tips for preventing poisonings and medication mishaps
March 15, 2020
Tips for preventing poisonings and medication mishaps

Every time there is a change in routine we see an increase in poisonings at the Poison Center. As everyone’s routines are being disrupted due to COVID-19, keep in mind:

  • Children 6 years and younger are at high risk for unintentional poisonings.
  • While families are isolating and stocking up, there will be more medications and cleaning products around the house. More availability means more chances of poisonings.

Help prevent a poisoning by:

  • Keeping medicine up, away and out of sight.
  • Practicing proper storage of household cleaning products, including hand sanitizer.
  • Saving the Poison Helpline number on your phone now: 1-800-222-1222.
  • Being aware of mixing cleaning products. Some combinations can be highly toxic. 

Did you know most poisonings occur at home? That’s right, the majority of poisonings happen right under our noses.

Modern life is hectic (and poisonings LOVE hectic times). We get distracted, or find ourselves multitasking, and it only takes a minute for an accidental poisoning or medication mishap to occur. But in many instances, these are preventable.

A few precautions can protect your family and friends:

Opt for child-resistant packaging

Choose medicines and cleaning products with child-resistant caps, but keep in mind that child resistant isn’t childproof so proper storage is very important.

Store safely, dispose properly

Keep medicines and cleaners out of reach and also out of sight. (If it’s high on a shelf, a child may see it and try to climb to get to it.) Store these items in high cabinets or in cabinets with properly installed child-resistant latches.

Thoroughly clean up after working around the house, car or garden. Be sure cleaners, sprays and products like kerosene are safely and securely put away and carefully dispose of any leftovers right away.

Keeping expired medications around adds risk. Contact your pharmacy to appropriately dispose of these. The Children’s Pavilion Pharmacy will accept medications for disposal.

Keep it in the original container

Poisoning mix-ups happen when you transfer containers. Keep anything that could be poisonous in its original container.

Read labels, follow instructions

Read labels on medications and cleaning products and follow instructions EACH and EVERY time. Be sure family members and all other caregivers do the same and teach kids (especially older ones) to read and follow labels.

Save the Poison Helpline on your phone

Save the Virginia Poison Center Helpline (1-800-222-1222) on your phone and post this number in visible places around your home. Have all others who take care of your child do the same. The best tool in case of a poisoning emergency is to have this number handy. The Poison Center provides fast, FREE, confidential help 24/7. Ninety percent of cases are successfully treated via phone when we’re called immediately.

Accidental poisonings and medication mishaps can happen to anyone, anywhere, and at any time - but the good news is that many of these instances are preventable by taking the simple steps outlined above. And remember, we’re here to provide help and expertise right away if needed.

By Fiorella Carhuaz, Virginia Poison Center education specialist


VCU’s Department of Emergency Medicine is home to the Virginia Poison Center. As one of three centers in the state, the Virginia Poison Center was established to provide emergency telephone information on poisoning for central and eastern Virginia. Registered Nurses and board-certified toxicologists are available for consultation 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Looking for more poison prevention tips? Visit the Virginia Poison Center’s website or follow the VPC’s Facebook page for tips, new hazard alerts and more.

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