National Poison Prevention Week

Jason Hack, MD, FACEP
Professor, Emergency Medicine and Medical Toxicology
Brown University


Make Your Home Safer with These Easy Steps!

March 19th – 25th was the 55th National Poison Prevention Week! Although every day is poison awareness day in my home, this week is especially focused on safety and awareness!

We want to use this time to raise community awareness about ways to prevent the tragedy of unintentional poisoning deaths—each year poisoning causes more death than car crashes!

If you think someone has been poisoned, call 1-800-222-1222, to reach the National Poison Center.  This national toll-free number works anywhere in the U.S. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Program it into your home and mobile phone!


These instructions are for everyone, but are especially important for households with children or where children visit.

We use the term “UP” to remind people of what to do.


  • Inspect your entire home (bathrooms, under sinks, closets, garages, attics, etc) to find household products, such as detergents, cleaning products, bug killers, and other chemicals that could cause harm.
  • Gather all of your medications (medicine cabinets, bedside drawers, kitchen drawers, shelves, etc.) into a central location.

  • Identify in the group any potentially dangerous household chemicals and place them in locked cabinets.
  • Make sure all medications (for example, pain medications, heart medications, blood pressure medicines, seizure medicines, etc.) are in child-resistant containers, and kept high up away from children.
  • Remember, child-resistant bottles are not childproof. These containers are designed to keep children away from the pills/chemicals for only a short time.
  • If anyone is using marijuana, or THC edible products, make sure they are locked and secured up away from children. 

  • Throw out your unneeded, unwanted, expired medications. 
  • Techniques for safe disposal include putting them in the trash after combining with kitty litter or coffee grounds, flushing them down the toilet or bringing them to a “Take Back Center”.
  • This FDA website has information to help you chose the right disposal technique. 
  • April 29th is this year's medication “Take Back Day”. The website has more information. 

Make sure your home environment is safe! Test your smoke detector batteries, make sure they work and the batteries are fresh! Make sure you have carbon monoxide detectors! Odorless, tasteless and invisible, you need a CO detector on every level of your home.


  • Read medicine and product labels before each use and follow directions exactly. 
  • Tell children what medicine is for and why an adult must be the one to give it to them.
  • Try to avoid taking medicine in front of young children so they don’t mimic the behavior.
  • Never take more than the prescribed amount of your medicines. If you think you need more, ask your doctor.
  • Never “borrow” someone else’s prescribed medicine.
  • Make sure your doctor knows every medicines/herbals/vitamins you are taking so they can help you avoid drug interactions. 
  • If you don’t understand the instructions on a prescription, or don’t know how to use the dosing device (dosing cup, syringe, or dropper), talk to your pharmacist or doctor before using the medicine.
  • Never share or sell your prescription medicines.
  • Keep medicines in their original bottles or containers—if you move them to another container (ex. a pill organizer), store them in a place where children cannot get to them. 
  • Never store chemicals in food containers.
  • Never combine household cleaning products—some chemical mixtures may release toxic gases.
  • Keep laundry detergent pods up and away so children can not get to them.

*These tips are gathered from a variety of sources. 


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