How can I identify poisons?

 Dr. Kathleen Handal, MD
Emergency Medicine

Poisoning may be accidental or intentional - drugs, chemicals, and household cleaners are all potential poisons. They can hurt or kill you! Children are the most common victims of accidental poisoning. Adults and adolescents sometimes use poison to end their lives.

Rule #1- Never allow your body to come into contact (including touch/smell/eating) anything unknown to you!

Rule #2-If you think you have been 'poisoned' act as a detective think what exposure you have had in past 24 hours that may have caused symptons and call your local Poison Help Center at 1-800-222-1222. You can dial this number from anywhere in the US, including American Samoa, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands and Micronesia. They operate around-the-clock and can provide you with treatment options you can start before reaching an ER.

Rule #3-Call Poison Help Center for specific instructions. They will want to know:

  • Type of  poison
  • How it happened
  • Age of victim
  • Estimated amount and time occurred
  • Victim's condition
  • Follow Poison Help Center's instructions!


Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

Poisons can be identified if they cause harm to someone when:

• They are used in the wrong way.

• They are used by the wrong person (in the case of prescription medicines).

• They are used in the wrong amount.


Make sure the phone numbers you need to know in case of a poison emergency are posted near kitchen and bathroom telephones.



This content originally appeared on

Continue Learning about Poisoning

Are Your Grandkids at Risk From Your Meds?
Are Your Grandkids at Risk From Your Meds?
Three generations of Matthews have played in the NFL: Clay Matthews, Sr., played four seasons for the San Francisco 49ers. His eldest son, Clay Matthe...
Read More
How can environmental hazards affect my health?
Boston Women's Health Book CollectiveBoston Women's Health Book Collective
Where and how we live and work affects our health all the time. Evidence suggests that hazards in ou...
More Answers
What are examples of common poisons?
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MDDr. Mehmet Oz, MD
These are some examples of common poisons:• Alcohol;• Prescription, over-the-counter, and illegal dr...
More Answers
What poisons can be swallowed?
American Red CrossAmerican Red Cross
Poisons that can be swallowed include: Foods, such as certain mushrooms and shellfish High amount...
More Answers

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.