First Aid for Poisonings in a Child

In some cases, accidental poisoning of a child can be treated at home. You will need to follow the directions of a poison control center or your child's healthcare provider. In other cases, a child will need emergency medical care.

Poison that is swallowed

If you find your child with an open or empty container of a toxic substance, they may have been poisoned. Stay calm and act quickly:

  • Get the poison away from the child.

  • If the substance is still in the child's mouth, make them spit it out or remove it with your fingers. Keep this along with any other evidence of what the child has swallowed.

  • Don't make the child vomit.

  • Don't follow instructions on packaging about poisoning. These are often outdated. Instead, call Poison Control at 800-222-1222 right away for instructions.

Call 911, or get immediate medical care at the nearest emergency room if your child has any of these symptoms after possible exposure to a poison:

  • Sore or burning throat

  • Pupils that are larger than normal (dilated) or smaller than normal (constricted)

  • Trouble breathing

  • Drowsiness, irritability, or jumpiness

  • Nausea, vomiting, or stomach pain without fever

  • Lip or mouth burns or blisters

  • Unusual drooling

  • Strange odors on your child's breath

Take or send the poison container with your child. This is to let the healthcare provider know what your child swallowed. Both the poison control center and your child's healthcare provider will need this information:

  • Your name and phone number

  • Your child's name, age, and weight

  • Any health conditions your child has

  • Any medicines your child is taking

  • Any allergies your child has

  • The name of the substance your child swallowed. Read it from the container and spell it out.

  • The time your child swallowed the poison (or when you found your child), and the amount you think was swallowed

  • Any symptoms your child is having

If the substance was a prescription medicine, give all the information on the label, including the name of the medicine. If the name of the medicine is not on the label, give the name and phone number of the pharmacy and the date of the prescription. Describe what the pill looked like (if you can) and if it had any printed numbers or letters on it.

If your child swallowed another substance, such as a part of a plant, describe it as much as you can to help identify it.

If you are uncertain as to what your child may have swallowed or how much, take your child to the nearest emergency room for evaluation.

Poison on the skin

If your child spills a chemical on their body, or there are unusual stains on your child's clothing, remove any contaminated clothes. Rinse the skin well with lukewarm—not hot—water. If the area shows signs of being burned or irritated, continue rinsing for at least 15 minutes, no matter how much your child may protest. Then call the poison control center for more instructions. Do not put ointments, butter, or grease on the area.

Chemicals don't all cause the same kinds of effects. Some don't cause any irritation. Others can cause severe corrosive injury. Call 911 right away for a chemical burn that:

  • Is deep

  • Covers an area larger than 3 inches (about 8 cm) in diameter

  • Covers the hands, feet, face, groin, buttocks, or a major joint

Bring the chemical container to the emergency room or take a photo of the container if it’s large. Tell the emergency care providers the chemical name right away.

Poison in the eyes

Flush your child's eye by holding the eyelid open and pouring a small, steady stream of lukewarm—not hot—water into the inner corner of the eye near the nose. Let the water run across the eye to the outside corner to flush the area well. You may need help from another adult to hold your child while you rinse the eye. Or wrap your child tightly in a towel and hold them under one arm. Continue flushing the eye for 15 minutes and call the poison center for more instructions. Don't use an eye cup, eye drops, or ointment unless the poison center tells you to do so.

Poison breathed in

In the home, poisonous fumes or gases can be breathed in from sources, such as:

  • A car running in a closed garage

  • Leaky gas vents

  • Wood, coal, or kerosene stoves that are not working as they should

  • Mixing bleach and ammonia together, which makes chloramine gas

  • Strong fumes from other cleaners and solvents

If your child breathes in fumes or gases, get them into fresh air right away. If your child is breathing without problem, call the poison control center for more instructions. If your child is having difficulty breathing, call 911.

When to call 911

Call 911 or your local emergency service if your child has any of the following:

  • Seizures

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Trouble breathing

If your child has stopped breathing, start CPR. Don't stop until your child breathes on their own or someone else can take over. If you can, have someone call 911 right away. If you are alone, do CPR for 2 minutes and then call 911.

Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Liora C Adler MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ronald Karlin MD
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2023
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.