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Poison Prevention Tips for Winter


When the temperature drops there is more to be concerned about than colds and the flu. Some chemicals used in the winter can pose a risk if they are swallowed, especially to children and pets.

Antifreeze and Windshield Wiper Fluid

Many winterizing products for home vehicles use chemicals to prevent freezing in the engine or windshield wipers. Ethylene glycol in antifreeze and methanol, also called “wood alcohol” in windshield wiper fluid can make a person or animal very sick even if a little is swallowed. These chemicals can damage the eyes or kidneys.

Safety tip: Keep antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid, as well as all household cleaning products and chemicals, in the original containers they came in, with the capon tight, and locked away from children and pets.

  • When topping off the car with antifreeze or wiper fluid, clean up any spills right away so the kids or the dog can’t find the puddle.
  • Before throwing away an empty container, rinse it with water to make sure it’s empty, and replace the safety cap.

Snow Salt, Rock Salt and Ice Melt Chemicals

These products are large crystals of table salt, or a blend of other salts, and can be tasty to children. They are used to melt ice and snow on sidewalks and roadways. Too much salt all at once-can make a child or animal very sick.

Safety tip: Keep the bag of ice melt out of reach of children and pets.

  • Sweep up salt crystals spilled indoors or brought in on shoes right away.
  • Discourage children from sampling salt they may find outside on sidewalks or parking lots.

Cold and Flu Medicines

Many cold and flu products contain a combination of active ingredients to treat many symptoms at the same time. Read the label and understand what is in each medicine to avoid accidental overdosing of an ingredient.

Safety tip: Follow the instructions on the medicine label exactly. If you have any questions, your pharmacist or the Missouri Poison Center will be happy to help you.

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas and is sometimes called the ‘Silent Killer’ because it sneaks in with no color, odor, or taste. Any heat source, tool, or appliance that does not run on electricity or a battery and burns any kind of fuel is a possible risk. Good ventilation is the key to safety because it prevents carbon monoxide from building up to dangerous levels indoors.

Safety tips:

  • Put carbon monoxide detectors on each level of the home, especially on a level with fuel burning appliance, and outside of sleeping areas.
  • If the alarm goes off, immediately leave the house and call the fire department.
  • Do not use anything that runs on an engine or burns fuel inside the house except appliances that are meant for indoor use are installed and operating properly.
  • If you want to use a fireplace or a wood stove, make sure the flue is open and working properly so that any CO is carried away to the outdoors.

For more information on Carbon Monoxide, click here.

Lamp Oil

Lamp oil appeals to children because it comes in bright colors and smells nice and can look like something good to drink. However, it’s very slippery and often “goes down the wrong way.” It causes choking and gagging and can turn into serious pneumonia.

Safety tips: Never leave burning lamps or candles unsupervised.

  • Make sure the refill bottle has a safety cap or don’t buy it and bring it home.
  • Keep the refill bottle locked away.
  • Children can drink lamp oil directly from the candle or lamp, so lock these away also when they are not in use.
Poison Prevention Tips for Winter PDF
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