Act Fast: What To Do If An Accidental Poisoning Occurs

Published: March 01, 2022
Aliya Abdulla
By Aliya Abdulla, 2022 PharmD Candidate

In pharmacy school, I learned that accidental poisonings are more common than we think. On average, poison control centers deal with a poisoning every 8 seconds. This has always stuck with me, and it is important everyone knows how to handle these situations. If you or a loved one is suspected of a poisoning, it is important to act fast and follow these steps. 

What should I do first?

Act fast! Call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 for all poisonings. Call 911 quickly if the person will not wake up, has a seizure, or has trouble breathing.

How do I treat a poisoning?

In addition to calling Poison Control, there are some situations where you can provide first aid to prevent further damage.

If the poison is swallowed and is causing burning or irritation and the person is alert and able to swallow, have them drink a small amount of milk or water immediately.

For poison in the eye, quickly rinse your eye with room temperature water for 15-20 minutes, and make sure to take out any contact lenses.

If there is poison on your skin, take off any clothes with poison on them, and quickly rinse your skin with room temperature water and mild soap for 15 minutes.

For inhaled poison, try to get fresh air as soon as possible.

How do I prevent an accidental poisoning?

Prevention is the best way to lower the number of accidental poisonings that happen every day. There are many details about medications that can come into play.

Key safety tips include:

  • Not sharing prescription medications
  • Follow directions and warning labels on bottles
  • Dispose of unused or expired medications

Be sure to ask your pharmacist if you have questions about the best way to use and dispose of medications.

Household cleaners also are risky to have out and about. Make sure to keep products in their original packaging to avoid mix-ups. Do not mix household products (like cleaners) and open windows when using chemicals.

Kids can be victims of accidental poisonings. Medication and household cleaners look a lot like candy and drinks to kids. Educate your kids not to put unknown things in their mouths. Keep medication and household products out of reach and use childproof containers for medication storage.


At the end of the day, you play a big role in making sure accidental poisonings do not happen! If they do happen, it is important you act fast and take steps to contact help quickly. Contact your pharmacist with any questions about how to best use, store, and dispose of your medications. Read more about how to safely dispose of medications here.



Related Articles

subscribe section background