Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Health Issues
Text Size
Facebook Twitter Google + Pinterest


About 2.2 million people swallow or have contact with a poisonous substance each year. More than half of these poison exposures occur in children under six years of age.

Most children who swallow poison are not permanently harmed, particularly if they receive immediate treatment. If you think your child has been poisoned, stay calm and act quickly.

You should suspect poisoning if you ever find your child with an open or empty container of a toxic substance, especially if she is acting strangely. Be alert for these other signs of possible poisoning.

  • Unexplained stains on her clothing
  • Burns on her lips or mouth
  • Unusual drooling, or odd odors on her breath
  • Unexplained nausea or vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps without fever
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Sudden behavior changes, such as unusual sleepiness, irritability, or jumpiness
  • Convulsions or unconsciousness (only in very serious cases)


Anytime your child has ingested a poison of any kind, you should notify your pediatrician. However, your regional Poison Center will provide the immediate information and guidance you need when you first discover that your child has been poisoned. These centers are staffed twenty-four hours a day with experts who can tell you what to do without delay. Call the national toll-free number for Poison Help Line at 1–800–222–1222 which will provide immediate and free access around the clock to your regional Poison Center. If there’s an emergency and you cannot find the number, dial 911 or Directory Assistance and ask for the Poison Help Line.

The immediate action you need to take will vary with the type of poisoning. The Poison Help Line can give you specific instructions if you know the particular substance your child has swallowed.

Last Updated
Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5 (Copyright © 2009 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
Facebook Twitter Google + Pinterest