National Poison Prevention Week

Would you know what to do if someone you know had been poisoned?  

What if a child mistook a laundry pod for candy? Or an older adult had trouble seeing a label and mixed two household cleaners together, creating a poison gas?  

The answer if you believe someone has been poisoned is to call 911 or a poison control center at 800-222-1222. In Virginia, one of two poison centers located at Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia will give advice for a range of poisons. If you know someone has been exposed to poison, but are not sure they have been poisoned, it’s still important to call.   

Next week, the third full week of March, is National Poison Prevention Week. The goal each year is to raise awareness of poisoning prevention and what to do if someone you know has been poisoned.  

According to the National Capital Poison Center, 55 poison control call centers across the U.S. took more than 2.1 million calls for help, or about 1 every 15 seconds in 2020.  

In Virginia in 2021, 92 percent of poison cases happened in a residence and 74 percent were unintentional, according to America’s Poison Centers. Nearly 11 percent of the substances people were exposed to were pain relievers, while about 7 percent were cleaning products. Cosmetics and personal care products accounted for about 6 percent, as did antidepressants. Nearly 40 percent of the cases were for children under the age of 5.  

Common household items can poison children, including medicines, pesticides, car fluids, such as windshield washer fluid and antifreeze; household chemicals, such as drain cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, laundry detergent and paint thinner; alcoholic beverages and certain types of plants. To learn more, visit the Virginia Poison Center or the Blue Ridge Poison Centers’ websites.   

You can help keep young children safe by acting on the phrase, “put your medicines up and away and out of sight.”  

What else can you do?  Here are a few tips:   

Prevent children from being poisoned:  

  • Use child-resistant closures on medicines and dangerous household products. 
  • Lock medicines and dangerous household products up high for children.   
  • Keep products, including household products, in their original containers. 
  • Store food and household products in different areas to avoid confusing the two. 
  • Take medicine where children can’t watch. They learn by imitating adults. 
  • Teach children to always ask before eating or drinking anything. 

Prevent adults from being poisoned:  

  • Ask your pharmacist before taking a new drug to avoid drug interactions. 
  • Read the label before taking medicine or using a household product. Turn on the light and put on your glasses if you need to read. 
  • Take medicines exactly as your doctor orders. Your pharmacist or other health care provider can help you figure out the best way to keep your drugs organized. 
  • Only take medicine prescribed for you! If possible, have all prescriptions filled by the same pharmacy. 
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms. 
  • Do NOT mix household products together. You could make a poisonous gas. 


Download poison prevention tip cards for children and adults, get statistics from poison centers, watch videos and learn more at the following sites:  

VDH Poison Prevention page 

America’s Poison Centers 

Virginia Poison Center 

Blue Ridge Poison Center 

Health Resources & Services Administration