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Winter Poison Safety

Winter can be a magical time of year. Families gather for the holidays, exchanging gifts and cards, and sharing meals and resolutions for the coming New Year. Friends catch up with each other over drinks, while neighborhoods and shopping centers twinkle with holiday lights. We bundle up as the air gets chilly, and those of us who live in snow-prone areas dust off our sleds, shovels, and snow blowers.

As wonderful as winter can be, the season also brings some special poison hazards. The good news is that there are a few easy precautions you can take to help keep you and your loved ones poison-free this time of year.

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

Each year, poison control centers are consulted more than 10,000 carbon monoxide exposures. Most exposures are reported in the colder months, between November and March.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a very dangerous odorless and colorless gas. The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. If you breathe in enough CO it can make you pass out, and even kill you. CO is released by appliances, tools, and vehicles that burn fuel: generators, furnaces, gas dryers, cars, and more.

Follow these tips to prevent CO exposure:

        • Install a CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery regularly.
        • Never use a generator inside your home, basement, or garage or less than 20 feet from any window, door, or vent.
        • Have your home’s heating system and chimneys inspected regularly to ensure proper ventilation.

For more CO poisoning prevention tips, click here. If you suspect there might be CO in your home, immediately get to fresh air and then call the Poison Help hotline at 1-800-222-1222.


Many adults enjoy beverages containing alcohol in moderation, especially around the winter holidays. However, when it comes to alcohol, children are not little adults! Even a small amount of alcohol can have harmful effects on a child.

Children are naturally curious and mimic adult behaviors, so take special care to keep wine, beer, liquor, and mixed drinks up and away from children. To a child, these drinks can look and taste like juice. If you host a holiday party, don’t wait until the next morning to clean up. Children who wake up early may drink beverages that have been left out.

If you suspect a child has ingested any amount of alcohol, call the Poison Help hotline right away at 1-800-222-1222.

Toy Safety

When it comes to toys, a significant concern is button batteries. A child swallowing a button battery is an especially dangerous situation. Button batteries are shaped like coins, metallic, and shiny – very attractive to young children. They are used to power car key fobs, hearing aids, watches, toys, games, flashing jewelry, singing greeting cards, remote control devices, and many other items most parents and caregivers don’t think of as dangerous. While most swallowed button batteries will pass through the gut and be eliminated in the stool, occasionally a swallowed button battery can get stuck in the esophagus, especially in child’s narrow esophagus. When this happens, the battery can cause severe tissue damage, even death. Button batteries may also cause injury when they are placed in the nose or the ears.

Keep items containing button batteries that are not secured by screws like remote controls out of reach of children. If anyone ingests a button battery, call the Poison Help hotline at 1-800-222-1222 immediately.

Tips to prevent ingestion of a button battery:

        • Keep items containing button batteries that are not secured by screws (like remote controls) out of reach of children.
        • Supervise kids when they are playing with new toys.
        • Do not leave wrapped gifts containing button batteries on the floor or unattended.

Holiday Decor

Children, especially babies and toddlers, are constantly putting things in their mouths, noses, ears, and other places where they don’t belong. Holiday décor often glows, sparkles, and shines, so it is extra appealing! Here’s what you need to know about decorating safely:

  • The liquid in “bubble” lights is very toxic.
  • “Heirloom” ornaments and décor may contain lead or lead paint. Make sure these items are well out of reach of children.
  • Snow globes made in the U.S. are usually filled with water. Those made in other countries have been found to contain toxic liquids like antifreeze.
  • Oil used in a menorah  can be very dangerous if swallowed!

If you are concerned about exposures to any of these items or other holiday décor, call the Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222). You can also get help through the online tool, .

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