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Seasonal Poisoning Hazards: Winter

24-Hour Poison Control Center Hotline

Toll free 1-800-222-1222

Cough and Cold Medications

  • Keep medicines out of the reach of children.
  • Cough and cold medicines can cause drowsiness or extreme agitation (excitement).
  • Many cough and cold medicines contain aspirin, acetaminophen or alcohol.
  • Follow label directions for dosage very carefully. Medicines may come in both child and adult strengths. If your child’s age is not listed on the label, follow your doctor’s advice.

Antibiotics

  • Never use antibiotics prescribed for one person to treat a different person.
  • Take all doses of antibiotics until they are gone. If you have to stop taking the medication, discard the remainder. Don’t save it for the next time you are sick.
  • Many antibiotics must be stored in the refrigerator. Be aware that the refrigerator is easily accessible to children.

Vitamins

  • Never call vitamins “candy.”
  • Keep vitamins locked up and out of sight.
  • The iron supplement in many vitamins can be dangerous if taken in excess. If your child does not need iron replacement, buy vitamins that don’t contain iron.

Mercury Thermometers

  • If a thermometer breaks in a child’s mouth, remove any visible glass or mercury, and inspect for cuts in the mouth.
  • Mercury in thermometers cannot be absorbed in healthy children, so the risk of poisoning is low.
  • Give the child a glass of water or milk, and call the Poison Control Center.

Plants

  • Some holiday plants can be poisonous. Keep them out of the reach of children.
  • Symptoms of plant poisoning may include rashes, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Some plants can cause much more serious effects.
  • If a child ingests a plant, call the Poison Control Center.

Holiday Decorations

  • Some bubble lights can be poisonous if a child drinks the fluid in them (even if labeled non-toxic).
  • Snow sprays are made of materials that can harm the lungs if swallowed or inhaled.
  • Christmas tree needles can cause painful cuts in the mouth and throat if swallowed.
  • Angel hair (made from finely spun glass) and ornament hangers may cause cuts or irritation.
  • Tree ornaments, icicles and tinsel may block the airway or cause choking.

Alcohol

  • During the holiday season, children are at increased risk for alcohol poisoning. Children imitate adults, so they may drink beverages they see grownups drinking at holiday parties.
  • Remove all empty and partially empty cups as soon as possible.
  • Store alcohol in a locked cabinet out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Even very small amounts of alcohol can be dangerous to children.
  • Symptoms of alcohol poisoning in children can include difficulty breathing, extreme drowsiness, difficulty walking, nausea and vomiting. Seizures may occur in some cases. Results can be life threatening.
  • Mouthwash, cologne, perfume, after-shave lotion, rubbing alcohol and cough/cold medications are potential sources of alcohol poisoning.