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Poison Control Center
Happy family in a park.

Seasonal Poisoning Hazards: Winter

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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.

24-hour Poison Control Center hotline: 1-800-222-1222


  • During the holiday season, children are at increased risk for alcohol poisoning. Children imitate adults, so they may drink beverages they see grown-ups 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.

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