What to do in a poisoning emergency – Resources

It’s very frightening when someone is having a reaction to a toxic substance. In fact, those seconds when you first discover them can make the difference between life and death. That’s why it’s important to know what to do ahead of time, and keep phone numbers and resources available at a moment’s notice. Study up on these poison control resources now, and you may save a life later. 

Signs that someone has been poisoned

Symptoms of poisoning can be different depending on the substance. If they are able to respond, you should ask the person what they may have been exposed to. Look around the environment to see if you recognize any potential poisoning hazards, such as spilled chemicals, open medicine bottles, or the smell of gas. If you think someone has been poisoned, seek immediate medical attention.

Even though symptoms can change, there are some tell-tale signs that could alert you to a potential poisoning emergency. 

  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Drowsiness, confusion, and slurred speech and dizziness
  • Stomach pain
  • Loss of consciousness and seizures
  • Breathing difficulties
  • High Fever and body chills
  • Discolored skin or rashes
  • Double or blurred vision

Certain medications can also cause specific reactions if taken in too high of quantities, so it’s important to know the side effects of all the medicine that is in your house, in case youngsters or pets get into it accidentally.

Get Help Immediately

At the first sign of poisoning, call medical professionals for help immediately. They will be able to walk you through how to help someone who is showing signs of being poisoned, even before medical help can arrive on the scene. These numbers vary depending on the country that you are in, but most countries have an office or hotline you can call directly for assistance. Post your local numbers next to a phone and in common areas around your house so they are ready at a moment’s notice.


911 – If a person collapses, loses consciousness, or has trouble breathing, call 911 first. 

The Poison Control Centers, 24/7 help – (800) 222-1222

The Poison Control Centers offer 24/7 help with any poisoning, in humans and pets. They recommend calling their office first ONLY IF there are no serious symptoms. If someone collapses, loses consciousness, or has trouble breathing, CALL 911. 

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Phone Number: (888) 426-4435


911 – If a person collapses, loses consciousness, or has trouble breathing, call 911 first. In some rural areas there are specific local numbers to call, as well. If you are traveling through or visiting areas that are not heavily populated, research the local emergency numbers before you go.

Regional Resources

Canadian provinces each have their own poison control center dedicated to the area. Find phone numbers and contact information for each in this list: Poison information centers in Canada

Rapid First Aid Efforts You Can Do Immediately

From Poison.org, a resource by the US Poison Control Center, there are a few steps you can take immediately following a poisoning to help someone right away. These depend on how a person was exposed to the poison. 


If the poison was swallowed and it feels burning, irritating or caustic, AND the person is still conscious, not having seizures, and able to swallow, they can sip on some water or small amounts of milk to try to calm the effects. It is NOT recommended that you encourage vomiting unless under the direction of a medical professional.

In the eyes

Flush the eyes with water for 15 to 20 minutes immediately following exposure to a poison. If symptoms persist after a moment of resting from the 15-20 minutes or are very severe, continue flushing the eyes with clean water until medical help arrives or you can get the person to an emergency room. 

On the skin 

Rinse off any exposed skin with clean water and remove all contaminated clothing. Rinse for 15-20 minutes under running water. If blistering, large or deep burns, pain, redness, or swelling worsen or persist, seek medical help right away. 


If someone inhales toxic fumes, move them to fresh air right away. If symptoms of poisoning persist after breathing in fresh air, get medical help right away. 

We hope these resources are helpful, but we also hope that you never have to use them! Keep your family safe by securing hazardous chemicals and medications away from young children and pets. Keep a list of medications that each person in your family takes, and report unusual smells to local authorities and take caution when using household chemicals for cleaning.