Press Release

American Association of Poison Control Centers Provides Back to School Poisoning Prevention Tips and Resources

August 16, 2016 | Download PDF

ALEXANDRIA, VA – As the summer comes to a close and millions of children begin a new school year, the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) is reminding students, teachers, school nurses, and parents about some extra precautions they can take to prevent poisonings.

“Poisoning continues to be the leading cause of injury death in the United States, ahead of car accidents and gun-related fatalities,” said Stephen T. Kaminski, JD, AAPCC CEO and Executive Director. “Additionally, unintentional poisoning is a top 10 cause of unintentional injury death and injury, beginning at 10-14 years old. Schools play an important role in keeping children safe, and poison centers across the country help school staffs create a safe learning environment by answering questions and providing expert treatment advice 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year-round.”

AAPCC works with America's 55 poison centers to track, prevent, and provide expert treatment advice about unintentional and intentional poisonings and their sources. From 2010 to 2015, approximately 171,000 exposures reported to poison centers took place at a school. Of those reported exposures, 76 percent were unintentional poisonings, which included insect bites and stings, food poisoning, non-pharmaceutical products, and therapeutic errors. While the route of exposure for the majority of these exposures was ingestion (62%), and other routes included inhalation (14%), dermal (12%), ocular (11%), and other (1%).

“Almost any substance can be poisonous when used in the wrong way, in the wrong amount, or by the wrong person. From swallowing the classroom hand sanitizer to taking another student’s medication, the natural curiosity of a child is not restricted to the home,” said Krista Osterthaler, Chair of the National Poison Prevention Week Council and Director of National Outreach at AAPCC. “The good news is that even though children act fast, most school-based exposures are unintentional and can be prevented by taking a few extra precautions in the classroom and around campus.”

1.BE PREPARED FOR AN EMERGENCY. Put the Poison Help number, 1 (800) 222-1222 in your mobile phone and display it in your classroom in case of emergency, or in case you have questions. Calls are free, confidential, and answered by experts, 24/7/365. Make sure students are aware of or have access to the Poison Help number as well.

2.PRACTICE SAFE USE AND STORAGE HABITS. Ideally, the following things should be stored up, away, and out of sight of children, and in their original containers. Additionally, make a habit of reviewing the label on any potentially hazardous substance or product prior to use.Teachers should also develop a set of safety rules for students around using and storing these and other potentially dangerous substances:

  • All medications and pharmaceuticals, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and supplements.
  • Cleaning supplies, especially those containing chlorine bleach and ammonia.
  • Pesticides and insect repellents.
  • Button batteries, such as those found in certain toys and key fobs.
  • Personal care products, especially hand sanitizers.

3.BE AWARE OF OUTDOOR POISONING HAZARDS. During recess, sporting events, and other outdoor activities, students can get into some dangerous situations with outdoor hazards, so be prepared with these prevention and treatment recommendations:

  • Insect bites and stings: If you have a first aid kit available, disinfect the wound with antiseptic towelettes and apply antibiotic ointment, if available. If necessary, apply direct pressure to the wound in order to stop the bleeding. Call Poison Help at 1(800) 222-1222 and a poison center specialist will help you determine if the exposed person needs medical treatment.
  • Plants and mushrooms: The list of plants that may be poisonous or cause severe skin irritation is long, and varies by the region where you live. Ensure you are aware of any potentially toxic plants growing around your school’s property or in your classroom.
  • Pesticides: Never use outdoor-use pesticides indoors. Pesticides meant for outdoor use can be more toxic than those designed for indoor use are. Read and follow all directions on the label, each and every time you use a pesticide.

4.COMMUNICATE SAFE MEDICINE USE. In 2015, America’s poison centers managed over 1.3 million exposure cases involving children, tweens, and teens, about half of which involved various medicines. Research shows that students begin to self-medicate around 11 years old, and by age 16, approximately 90 percent of adolescents report self-administering over-the-counter (OTC) medications. As a teacher or school health professional, you can start a critical conversation with your students about the safe use of OTC medicines. The OTC Medicine Safety program is an evidence-based educational program tailored toward 5th- and 6th-grade students with the goal of increasing knowledge and establishing appropriate attitudes relating to safe medicine use and storage. The program was developed in partnership with AAPCC and Scholastic, with support from Johnson & Johnson. The 100% free program contains lesson plans and resources for school nurses, teachers, community leaders, and families to support the education of tweens about the responsible use and storage of medicines. All program resources are available at

For more information on these and other poison hazards, visit AAPCC’s Poison Prevention webpage:

For more information, the media may contact Angela Gonzales, AAPCC Associate Manager, Communications and Outreach, at 703-894-1865 or

AAPCC supports the nation’s 55 poison center members in their efforts to treat and prevent drug, consumer product, animal, environmental and food poisoning. Members staff the Poison Help hotline at 1-800-222-1222 that provides free, confidential, expert medical advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year from toxicology specialists, including nurses, pharmacists, physicians and poison information providers. In addition, AAPCC maintains the only poison information and surveillance database in the United States, providing real-time monitoring of unusual poisoning patterns, chemical exposures and other emerging public health hazards. AAPCC partners with federal agencies such as HRSA, CDC, FDA and EPA, as well as private industry. Be prepared for a poisoning emergency and program the Poison Help phone number into your mobile telephone today – 1 (800) 222-1222.

To learn more, visit, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter (@AAPCC).

For More Information

  • Edward V. Walrod

    • Associate Manager for Media and Public Relations
    • Email: media at aapcc dot org
    • 703-894-1863

Find Your Local Poison Center

Poison centers offer free, private, confidential medical advice 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can reach your local poison center by calling 1-800-222-1222.

View all Poison Control Centers