For Poisoning Questions or Emergencies, Call


Services Provided by:
FL/USVI Poison Information Center – Jacksonville

Home Safety

About 90% of all poisonings happen in the home. Below are some poison prevention tips for you and your family. Remember, poison center specialists are available 24 hours a day at 1-800-222-1222 to provide free treatment advice.

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MedicineCalls about medication make up a large percentage of calls to poison control centers. This includes both prescription and over-the-counter medicine, including dietary supplements and herbal products, like bush teas.

While we think of medicine as something that helps us, medication can be dangerous if used incorrectly, taken by the wrong person, or if the wrong amount is taken.

Sometimes children will get into a parent’s or grandparent’s medication, but many calls often are in regard to an adult who has double-dosed, or taken the wrong medication entirely. Poison control can handle calls about any type of medication mistake or concern, including those about herbal or dietary supplements.

A common cause of medication poisoning occurs from dosing errors:

  • Taking too much
  • Taking too often
  • Taking the wrong medicine
  • Administering medicine the wrong way
    • Ex: ear drops being placed in the eyes
  • Drug interactions – can occur when medication interacts with a certain food, herbal product, alcohol or another medication.
    • Taking some over the counter (OTC) medications with prescription medications can cause serious problems.
    • Drinking bush teas or taking local herbal products may also interact with regular medications.
    • Taking some medications with certain foods can lessen the effect of the medication.

General Medication Safety Tips:

  • Store medicine and vitamins up and away out of the reach of children, in their original containers. For extra security, use a cabinet lock.
  • Always read labels before taking or giving medicine; check the name, expiration date and directions.
  • Ask the doctor or pharmacist about any food or drinks, including bush teas, that might interact with the medicine.
  • Never take medicine that belongs to someone else, even if you have the same symptoms.
  • If you suspect any medication errors or have any questions call the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

Tips for Giving Children Medicine:

  • Use child resistant packaging and replace caps tightly.
  • Never call medicine “candy.”
  • Use a correct measuring device, do not use a kitchen spoon.

Tips for Older Adults:

  • Always turn on lights and put glasses on before taking or giving medication.
  • Keep a medication list handy and include the following:
    • Current prescription medications, including strength and dosage
    • Non-prescription medications, as well as vitamins, supplements, and herbal products. Include strength and dosage.
    • Allergies
    • Healthcare providers’ names and phone numbers
    • Emergency contact(s)

Bush Teas, Herbal Products & Supplements

Herbal ProductsMany herbal products and supplements have serious interactions with prescription medications. Dietary supplements and herbal products, including bush teas, are NOT FDA approved for safety or verified for effectiveness.

Just because something is natural, doesn’t mean it’s safe for everyone or safe at all doses. Consult your healthcare provider before taking herbal products, supplements, medicinal “bush” teas, or tinctures. Some herbal plants have medicinal effects and can be dangerous when mixed with prescription medication. It’s important to check with your healthcare provider before drinking bush tea while taking prescription medication.

Use extreme caution in giving bush tea to children, as dosing can be inconsistent and can lead to severe poisoning.

Household Products & Personal Care Products

Household ProductsCommon household cleaning products and personal care products can be hazardous. Children are often attracted to the bright colors, interesting containers, and fruity scent of household products.

Common household products include:

  • Cleaning products
  • Dishwashing products
  • Bathroom/toilet bowl cleaners
  • Laundry products
  • Garden supplies
  • Automotive products
  • Pesticides
  • Weed killers
  • Paints
  • Pool chemicals

Common cosmetics and personal care products include:

  • Makeup
  • Shampoo/conditioner and other hair products
  • Perfume
  • Lotions and creams
  • Ointments
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Eye drops
  • Nail polish and remover

Tips to prevent household product and personal care product poisoning:

  • Lock up cleaners and chemicals UP and AWAY where children cannot see or reach them.
  • Store chemicals and household products in their original containers and away from food items.
  • Do not mix different household cleaners; this can create a toxic gas.
  • Do not reuse empty household containers.

If someone accidentally ingests household cleaners or personal care products:

  • Do not induce vomiting.
  • Do not give anything by mouth.
  • Call the poison control center immediately at 1-800-222-1222.

Opioids/Substance Abuse

OpioidsOpioids are the single most common drug class involved in fatal poisonings. These drugs, also known as painkillers, impact the brain and lead to a feeling of intense pleasure.

Drugs that are classified as opioids include the prescription medications:

  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin®)
  • Oxycodone (Percocet®)
  • Tramadol
  • Codeine

The illegal drug heroin is the most famous derivative of opium, but all of these drugs have the potential to cause overdose and addiction. Opioid addiction can develop very quickly, even with short-term use.

There are some opioids that are used to treat substance use disorder that are also potentially harmful if the dosage is wrong or if they’re ingested by a child.  These include buprenorphine and methadone.

Signs of an opioid overdose include:

  • Being unresponsive or “down”
  • Pale or bluish skin
  • Shallow or very slow breaths
  • Slow heartbeat (< 10 per minute)

Consuming opioids with alcohol or combining with street drugs and even some prescription medications (such as muscle relaxers) can increase the risk of serious poisoning and death.

Some other dangerous, commonly used drugs of abuse include:

  • Cocaine
  • Molly (aka Ecstasy, MDMA, X)
  • Methamphetamine
  • Synthetic Cannabinoids (aka Spice, K2)

If you suspect an overdose and cannot wake the person, call 911. If the person can respond and can explain what happened, call poison control for immediate assessment and advice. If you have access to naloxone, the antidote to an opioid overdose, poison control can help walk you through administering it while you wait for rescue.

Carbon Monoxide

Emergency Power GeneratorCarbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless and odorless gas that can kill a person in minutes. It is produced wherever fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal is burned, such as found in a fire, car exhaust or running gasoline or oil burning equipment exhaust.

Carbon monoxide is among the leading causes of non-drug poisoning death in the United States. Early (within minutes to hours) symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can mimic the flu, and include:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Confusion
  • Fainting

Carbon monoxide poisoning may rapidly lead to unconsciousness and death.

Carbon monoxide gas can be especially dangerous for pregnant women and their unborn babies, infants, people with anemia, and a history of heart disease. After a hurricane, many fatal poisonings are due to carbon monoxide, as many people use gas-powered generators to power their home in an outage.

Here are some important generator safety tips:

  • NEVER use a generator inside your home or garage, even if the doors and windows are open.
  • Place generators outside, 20 or more feet from the home.
  • Install a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector near every sleeping area of your home.

Food "Poisoning"

Food PoisoningFood “poisoning” (aka foodborne illness) occurs when food is contaminated by bacteria, parasites, or viruses or toxins produced by them. It affects millions of Americans; about 1 in 6 each year.

Pregnant women, young children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems should take extra precautions to avoid food poisoning.

Symptoms of food poisoning range from mild to severe, and can include:

  • Upset stomach
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Dehydration

Tips to Prevent Food Poisoning:

  • Check the expiration dates on all foods, especially meats, poultry and dairy products; do not buy or use foods beyond their expiration dates.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with warm, soapy water before and after handling food and especially after using the bathroom.
  • Wash utensils and cutting boards after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry and before they touch other food.
  • Use one plate for raw meat and another plate after the meat is cooked.
  • Cook meat, poultry, and seafood thoroughly, to a safe internal temperature.
  • Defrost foods safely.
  • Throw out any leftovers that have been at room temperature for more than two hours or in hot weather for more than one hour.
  • If hot food must be out for longer than two hours, use warming trays or slow cookers to keep the food hot.
  • If cold food must be out for longer than two hours, use a cooler or ice bucket.
  • Do not eat any food you are unsure about. When in doubt, throw it out.
  • People with high risk of complications from food poisoning should avoid: raw or rare meat and poultry; raw or undercooked fish or shellfish; raw or undercooked eggs or foods containing them such as cookie dough and homemade ice cream; raw sprouts (alfalfa, bean, clover, radish); un-pasteurized juices, ciders, milk and milk products; soft cheeses, blue-veined cheese and un-pasteurized cheese; refrigerated pâté and meat spreads; uncooked hotdogs, luncheon meats and deli meats.