Ingestion / Poisoning



Same for anywhere in the US. Will automatically connect caller to poison control in their state.  

Poison Control Free App 

  • The tool is for swallowed substances in children with no symptoms. 

  • If the child has symptoms, call Poison Center. 

  • App information available at 


Serious Poisonous Substances: Acids, Alkalis, or Petroleum Products 

  •  Toilet bowl cleaners, drain cleaners, lye, automatic dishwasher detergent, laundry pods and gel packs.  

  •  Ammonia, bleaches and chemical hair removers (e.g., Nair).  

  •  Kerosene, gasoline, benzene, furniture polish, and lighter fluid. 


Potentially Poisonous Substances 

  • These include most drugs, chemicals, and plants. 

  • The most dangerous prescription drugs of all (in overdosage) are barbiturates, clonidine, digitalis products, malaria drugs, narcotics, Lomotil, Darvon, theophylline, Tofranil, and other tricyclic antidepressants. 

  • Very dangerous over-the-counter medicines are iron, aspirin and acetaminophen. 

  • Nicotine Ingestion and E-Cigarettes - includes nicotine gum and liquids 

  •  Marijuana 


Most Lethal Drugs in a Single Dose with Young Child (Canares, 2015) 

  • Oral hypoglycemic agents, such as sulfonylurea 

  • Opioids, such as oxycodone 

  • Beta-blockers, such as propranolol 

  • Calcium channel blockers, such as verapamil 

  • Tricyclic antidepressants, such as imipramine 

  • Camphor-containing rubs, such as Vicks VapoRub 

  • Salicylates, such as aspirin or oil of wintergreen 


Harmless Substances (Minimally Toxic Ingestions) 

In general, the following substances when ingested are nontoxic. However, exceptions exist and need to be asked about. If an exception is present, transfer the call to the Poison Center. 

  • Cooking oil for frying foods. Exception: any symptoms of lung aspiration. 

  • Deodorants. Exception: liquid type deodorant and more than a taste. Reason: may contain alcohol. 

  • Hairspray. Exception: more than a taste. Reason: usually contain alcohol. 

  • Hand sanitizer. Exception: more than a taste. Reason: contains 60% alcohol. 

  • Hydrogen peroxide 3%. Exception: more than 3% concentration. Industrial strength solutions contain 10 to 30%. 

  • Mouth Washes. Exception: more than a taste. Reason: may contain alcohol. 

  • Paper matches. Exception: 10 or more are consumed. 

  • Perfumes. Exception: more than a taste. Reason: perfumes contain > 90% alcohol. 

  • Sunscreens. Exception: consumes large amount > 1 ounce. Reason: some products contain salicylates. 

  • Toothpaste. Exception: large amount such as more than a mouthful (2 ounces). 


Harmless Substances (Nontoxic Ingestions) 

The following substances are completely harmless if tasted or swallowed and the caller can be reassured: 

  • Soaps: hand soaps (liquid or bar), shampoo 

  • Skin products: corn starch baby powder (talcum powder can be harmful), hand lotions (creams or ointments), petroleum jelly, shaving cream, suntan lotion. Creams and ointments containing the following OTC medicines are safe: antibiotic, steroid, anti-fungal, anti-yeast and diaper rash creams and ointments. 

  • Cosmetics: lipstick, rouge, mascara. Deodorants and hair sprays are usually harmless, unless they contain alcohol. Perfumes always contain alcohol and can be harmful (See above section). 

  • Mouth products: breath mints, chewing gum. Mouth washes may contain alcohol and can be harmful (See above section). 

  • Writing products: chalk, crayons, paper, pen and marker ink, lead pencils (which are actually graphite) 

  • Paints/Glue: glue (white, arts and crafts), water color paints and water-based paints 

  • Pets: dog or cat food, cat litter (earth or clay), stool (see Swallowed Harmless Substance) 

  • Miscellaneous: candles, cooking lard or grease, dirt, glow products (glow sticks), mercury in glass thermometers (safe if swallowed but dangerous if inhaled), play dough, silica granules (in desiccant packets) 


Harmless Medicines 

The following are some generally harmless drugs but with rare exceptions: 

  • Birth control pills. Exception: 4th week placebo pills may contain iron. 

  • Antacids. Exception: taken in high over dosage for many weeks. 

  • Laxatives. Exception: phenolphthalein, a product no longer available in the US. 

  • Stool softeners. Exception: mineral oil if there are any symptoms of lung aspiration. Overall, a single large ingestion of laxatives or stool softeners will only cause 2 or 3 diarrhea stools. 

  • Probiotics and pre-biotics 

  • Vitamins. Exception: the vitamins contain iron (any ferrous compound). Also Vitamins A and D can cause symptoms if taken in high over dosage over many weeks. 


Harmless Overdose of Medications 

  • For non-prescription medicines (e.g., cough or cold medicines), up to double the recommended OTC dose for the child on a one-time basis can be considered harmless.  

  • The same rule can apply to prescription antibiotics.  


Caffeine Overdose and Energy Drinks 

  • Caffeine is a stimulant 

  • Most energy drinks contain 120 to 200 mg of caffeine. The average cup of coffee contains 120 mg of caffeine. 

  • Taking excessive caffeine causes children to become hyperactive, talkative and unable to sleep. It also causes a fast heart rate. Symptoms last 6 to 12 hours. 

  • Caffeine overdose or poisoning is very rare. It requires 12 cups of coffee in a child. The symptoms are involuntary tremors, confusion, a panic attack or even a seizure. 

  • For calls about a young child who drinks one energy drink, the caller can be reassured about the probable symptoms and that the symptoms will not be harmful. 

Feces Ingestion: Generally Harmless 

  • Infants and toddlers will put anything in their mouths 

  • Child’s own poop: harmless because those bacteria are already in their GI tract 

  • Other humans’ poop: small risk of diarrhea if other person has pathogen or active diarrhea 

  • Dog or cat poop: small risk of diarrhea. Rare risk of worms. 

  • Response: Child doesn’t need to be seen for this.  Caller can be reassured.  No treatment is indicated or beneficial. Call back if: Child develops diarrhea within 5 days following ingestion and use the Diarrhea guideline for triage. 


Carbon Monoxide Poisoning 

A severe generalized headache is an early symptom. Nausea or vomiting is often associated. Children with this type of headache usually sleep near a heating vent in a home with a defective furnace and awaken in the morning with their symptoms. Onset is usually in late fall when the heating system is first turned on. 


When in doubt contact Poison Control  

Poison Centers Have Final Decision in any Controversies 

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