Poison safety and prevention

Summer Poison-Proofing

The Bottom Line

The weather is perfect for a cookout or picnic. Family and friends gather. And the kids are…getting into things like they always do. Spending a little time to think through outdoor activities can keep poisons from spoiling your fun, for adults and children alike.

The Full Story

The weather is perfect for a cookout or picnic. Family and friends gather. And the kids are…getting into things like they always do. Spending a little time to think through outdoor activities can keep poisons from spoiling your fun, for adults and children alike. Here's a short checklist.

  • Be sure your picnic and cookout food is safe to eat. Wash your hands before handling food. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold; refrigerate left-overs within two hours, or an hour if it's hot outside. Separate raw meats from other foods. Use a clean platter for food you take off the grill.
  • If you use lighter fluid for your grill, be sure that it's stored where small children can't find it. A tiny sip could be enough to put a child (or an adult) into the hospital.
  • If tiki torches or other lights use lamp oil, be sure the oil is stored out of reach of children. The problems are the same as with lighter fluid: only a small sip could get into someone's lungs and cause pneumonia, which can be fatal.
  • If alcoholic beverages are part of your celebration, be sure that children can't get into them. A small amount of beer, wine, or liquor could be enough to make a child's blood sugar drop very low. That can cause seizures and even be fatal.
  • Insect repellent is important in keeping ticks and mosquitoes off your skin, but more is not necessarily better. Follow label instructions carefully: apply to skin or clothing as directed, re-apply only as often as the label states, and wash children off when they come back indoors.
  • Teach children and adults to recognize and avoid poison ivy. The old rule, "Leaves of three, let it be," still applies. If someone does brush against poison ivy, the best treatment is to wash immediately with soap and water, or at least water. The longer you wait, the less likely you are to remove the oils which cause itchy rashes and blisters.
  • Finally, in any gathering, be sure that each young child is being watched carefully by a designated person. It's too easy for "everyone" to assume that "someone" is watching a particular child. This is a good safety tip for more than poison prevention, of course. A child who is kept in sight can't wander into the woods, street, or pool unobserved.

If you suspect a poisoning, use the webPOISONCONTROL® online tool for guidance, or call Poison Control right away at 1-800-222-1222. 

Rose Ann Gould Soloway, RN, BSN, MSEd, DABAT emerita
Clinical Toxicologist


For More Information

Summer safety tips (CDC)

Poisoned?

Call 1-800-222-1222 or

HELP ME online

Prevention Tips

  • Handle picnic foods safely.
  • Store lighter fluid and torch oil out of children's reach.
  • Follow label instructions for insect repellants.
  • Watch kids carefully.