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Poison Myths

24-Hour Poison Control Center Hotline

Toll free 1-800-222-1222

Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

There are many common myths about poisons. If you have a question, call The University of Kansas Hospital Poison Control Center.

Plants

Myth
Poison ivy is contagious.

Truth
Poison ivy is not contagious. Touching the rash or blisters cannot spread poison ivy from one person to another. You can get poison ivy if you touch oil from the leaves of the poison ivy plant, which could be on an infected person’s skin or clothes.

Myth
If you scratch poison ivy or poison oak blisters, you can spread the rash.

Truth
Scratching will not spread the rash. However, fingernails can carry bacteria and scratching blisters can cause an infection.

Myth
Dead poison ivy and poison oak are no longer toxic.

Truth
Urushiol, which is the oil on the plants, can stay active for up to five years.

Myth
Poinsettias are poisonous. 

Truth
Although not meant for eating, these holiday plants are not poisonous. Eating them can irritate the stomach or skin.

Myth
Foods and plants that are safe for humans also are safe for animals.

Truth
Some foods and plants that humans eat are actually harmful to animals.

Cleaning Products

Myth
Putting cleaning products and other dangerous items on a high shelf prevents poisonings.

Truth
Children sometimes learn to climb even before they can walk. Lock up all cleaning products and other poisons.

Myth
If something tastes bad, such as mothballs or detergent, children won't eat it.

Truth
Each year, children do eat poisonous products that don't taste good.

Medications: Prescribed And Over-The-Counter

Myth
Childproof containers eliminate the risk of accidental poisonings in children.

Truth
No container is completely childproof. Lock up all medication.

Myth
Herbal and natural remedies are safe and do not need to be locked up.

Truth
Herbal medications and natural remedies can be just as dangerous as prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications. Lock up these items.

Myth
If a child swallows something poisonous, you should try to make them throw up.

Truth
Putting a finger down a child’s throat can cause serious damage to the throat. If a child swallows something poisonous, call The Poison Control Center for instructions. (1-800-222-1222)

Myth
In case of poisoning, children should be given syrup of ipecac.

Truth
The American Academy of Pediatrics no longer recommends syrup of ipecac. If a child swallows something poisonous, call The Poison Control Center for instructions. (1-800-222-1222)

Food

Myth
Coffee can help you sober up if you’ve been drinking alcohol.

Truth
Only time can help you sober up. Drinking coffee or taking a cold shower does not speed up the process.

Myth
You should let hot food cool down before you put it in the refrigerator.

Truth
Cooked food should be refrigerated as soon as possible to prevent the growth of bacteria. Food does not need to be cooled to room temperature before it's placed in the refrigerator.

Myth
Reheating food kills bacteria, making food safe to eat.

Truth
Heat kills some, but not all, bacteria and viruses present in food.

Myth
If squirrels or other small animals are eating mushrooms, they’re safe for humans. 

Truth
Just because an animal is eating a mushroom, does not mean it is safe for humans.

Myth
All white mushrooms are safe to eat.

Truth
The most common deadly mushrooms are white.

Myth
If you cook poisonous mushrooms, it removes the toxins.

Truth
Cooking, canning, pickling, freezing and drying mushrooms will not remove toxins.

Myth
Police have many documented cases of poisoning from eating Halloween candy.

Truth
There’s only one documented case of a poisoning from someone eating Halloween candy, and the child’s father was convicted of that crime. It’s still a good idea to only eat candy that’s sealed in its original wrapper.

Lead

Myth
Children have to eat paint chips or chew on painted surfaces to get lead poisoning.

Truth
Children can be poisoned by putting their fingers in their mouths after touching surfaces that have lead on them.

Myth
If a house is clean, there’s no risk of lead poisoning.

Truth
Lead dust cannot be completely removed through household cleaning.

Myth
Only children who live in the inner city get lead poisoning.

Truth
Lead paint can be present in any home built before 1978, no matter what area of the city the house is built.