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NJ Poison Control Center Issues Holiday Warning

Poisoning now leading cause of unintentional death in U.S.

NJ Poison Control Center Issues Holiday Warning

The Easter and Passover holidays are a joyous time of year and the period when families begin their spring cleaning. 

The season is also a time when higher instances of poisonings occur in the home, according to the New Jersey Poison Control Center.

Poisoning is now the leading cause of unintentional death in this country ahead of motor vehicle accidents and firearms, the center reported.

Are there items in your home that could be potential poison if they were used the wrong way? When used properly, items such as laundry detergent, medicines, pesticides, batteries, vitamins, cleaning products, mouthwash, rubbing alcohol, car/house maintenance products and gardening chemicals are all safe in your home.

But if they’re not used for their intended purposes, they can be harmful or even deadly items — to both you and your pets.

“I encourage everyone to take spring-cleaning to a whole new level by not forgetting to clean out their medicine cabinets, closets and pantries, garages and sheds,” said Executive and Medical Director of the NJ Poison Center Dr. Steven Marcus. “All medicines and toxic substances should be locked up and kept out of sight and reach of children and even pets.  If it can be seen, assume he or she can reach it,” said Marcus.

Here are some tips from the New Jersey Poison Control Center:

Food Poisoning 

• Always wash hands with soap and water before and after handling raw foods.
• Perishable foods like raw/cooked meats, poultry, and seafood should be kept refrigerated.  If left at room temperature for 2 hours or more, they should be discarded.

• Symptoms of food poisoning include: nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, chills and fever, diarrhea, and weakness.  Symptoms can occur 1-8 hours after eating “toxic” food.


• Always wash hands with soap and water before and after handling raw eggs.

• Raw eggs may carry the bacteria known as Salmonella.  Cook eggs fully before decorating.  If you use raw eggs for cookie dough or cake batter, be sure to use eggs pasteurized in their shells so licking the spoon may be safe. If you happen to touch the liquid inside of a raw egg, immediately wash your hands with soap and water.

Cleaning Products 

• Keep cleaning products in their original, child-resistant bottles and containers. Do not use food containers (such as cups or bottles) to store household cleaners and other strong chemicals. 
• Lock up all cleaning products.  Keep them out of sight and reach of children and pets.

• Store chemicals away from food. Many poisonings occur when one product is mistaken for another.

• To protect children from exposure to mouse/rat/insect poison, use products with a tamper-resistant bait station.

• Always close cleaning product containers immediately after use and put them away in a secure, locked location after use.

• Turn on fans and open windows when using household cleaners and chemicals.

• Read and follow the directions for use of products. Do this before using the products. Follow the advice carefully.

• Wear protective clothing, including long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, shoes and gloves, when spraying pesticides and other chemicals.  Pesticides can be absorbed through the skin and can be extremely poisonous.

• Never mix chemicals. Doing so can create a poisonous gas.

Medication Safety

• All medicine and toxic substances should be LOCKED UP and out of sight and reach of children and pets. If it can be seen, assume he or she can reach it.

• Never give or take medicines in the DARK - turn on a light and use glasses if needed.

• Avoid taking medicines in front of kids -- never call it "candy." Explain what medicine is and why only adults can give it to them.

• Never share or take old prescription medicines. Taking more than the prescribed amount of medicine can be dangerous. 

• Clean out medicine cabinets, closets and pantries periodically. Safely dispose of medicines that are expired or no longer needed.

• Keep medicines (as well as vitamins and diet supplements) in their original, child-resistant bottles or containers. Do this at home AND when traveling. Remember, child resistant is not the same thing as child-proof. 

• Give infants and children only medicines that are safe for their age and weight.

• Replace caps tightly after each use of a medication.

• Read and follow directions and warnings on the label before taking or giving medicine EVERY TIME.

• Never leave medicine or vitamins out on a kitchen counter or at a sick child's bedside, even if you have to give the medicine again in a few hours.

• Ask babysitters, visitors and houseguests to keep coats, purses, briefcases, or bags that have medicine in them locked up and out of sight from children and pets while they are in your home.

• Monitor the use of medicines prescribed for children and teenagers, such as medicines for attention deficit disorders (ADD).

• Avoid mixing medicine and alcohol because some medicines (prescription, over-the-counter, or herbal/dietary supplements) can be dangerous when mixed with alcohol.

• Use only the measuring device (dosing cup, dosing syringe or dropper) that is included with your medicine.


• Chocolate can be toxic to both cats and dogs.  Symptoms include convulsions, heart problems, nausea, and vomiting.

• Be mindful that chewable chocolate laxatives (medicines) look just like milk chocolate (candy).  It’s difficult to tell the difference between the two so keep these laxatives locked up and out of children’s sight and reach.  Excessive diarrhea which leads to fluid loss will result from swallowing too many laxatives. This is especially dangerous for young children. 

Easter Grass

• Keep away from young children and pets as this product can be a choking hazard.  It can cause intestinal obstruction if ingested.

Easter Egg Dye

• Be sure to use only food dye to color eggs; most of these are non toxic.  Despite their lack of serious toxicity, children should be supervised at all times while decorating their eggs. 

Easter Plants

• Easter Lilly: Keep away from pets.  Poisonous to cats.

• Lily of the Valley: If ingested, this plant can cause heart problems.

• Tulips and other bulb spring flowers:  The bulbs can be irritating to your skin.  If swallowed, they can cause distress.

If you suspect a poisoning may have taken place, the New Jersey Poison experts are may be reached on the Poison Helpline at (800) 222-1222 for accidents or questions involving medicines, chemicals or household products.

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