Seasonal Information

As the weather warms and we spend more time outside, families face new risks. Here are some hints to avoid poisonings that occur most often in summer.

Insect Bites

  • Be alert to insects that may bite or sting. After a sting, the site will show redness and swelling. It may be itchy and painful. Be careful around bees, wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets.
  • Some people are allergic to insect stings. To these people, a sting may cause serious problems and even death. Go to a hospital right away if you are stung and have any of these signs: hives, dizziness, breathing trouble, or swelling around eyes and mouth.

Snake Bites 

  • If a poisonous snake bites you or someone you know, call Poison Help (1-800-222-1222) right away.
  • The experts at your poison center will determine if the snake is poisonous. They will tell you what signs to watch for and what to do.
  • If the snake is not poisonous, you will need to wash the wound. You also may need a tetanus booster shot. Check with your doctor to find out.
  • Click image below to view information on prevention and first aid.

Pit Viper Safety

Spider Bites 

  • Most spider and tick bites do not cause harm. But, there are some spiders that can cause illness in some people. Two common spiders that can harm you are the female black widow and the brown recluse.
  • The female black widow is a black, shiny spider. It has a red or orange hourglass shape on its underside. Within 2 hours after being bitten by the female, you may feel stomach pain, dizziness, and muscle stiffness. You may have trouble breathing.
  • The brown recluse is a yellowish-tan to dark brown spider. It has a small body and long legs. The brown recluse has a dark violin shape on its body. Within 36 hours after being bitten, you may see or feel signs of poisoning. You may feel restless. You may have fever, chills, nausea, weakness, a rash, or joint pain. A blister or wound may develop at the bite site. The wound may be shaped like a bull’s-eye (a blister with rings around). If the wound worsens, see a doctor. Most likely you will not need antibiotics. States known to be home to the Brown Recluse are AL, AR, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MO, MS, NC, NE, NM, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX.

Food Poisoning 

  • Always wash hands and counters before preparing food. Use clean utensils for cooking and serving.  Store food at the proper temperatures. Refrigerated foods cannot be left out at temperatures above 40 degrees F (5 degrees C). The following foods, and others, can quickly spoil and become unsafe: party platters, meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products, eggs, mayonnaise, and cooked vegetables.
  • Wash hands with hot, soapy water after handling raw meat, poultry, or seafood. Wash cutting boards, utensils, and dishes after use with these foods.
  • Use a thermometer when cooking and reheating foods. That will help you to know when they are done and safe to eat.
  • Do not let food sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
  • Watch for signs of food poisoning. They include fever, headache, diarrhea, stomach pains, nausea, and vomiting.


  • If you are allergic to poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac, touching it can cause blisters on your skin.
  • Be sure that everyone in your family can identify these plants. Remember, "leaves of three, let it be."
  • If someone touches poison ivy, poison sumac, or poison oak rinse right away with plenty of running water for at least 5 minutes.
  • Unless you are a plant expert, do not pick your own foods to eat in the wild.
  • Poison hemlock and water hemlock can be fatal to people. Their roots, or tubers, can look like wild carrots or parsnips.

    Common Name, Botanical Name 
    Azalea, rhododendron, Rhododendron
    Caladium, Caladium
    Castor bean, Ricinis communis
    Daffodil, Narcissus
    Deadly nightshade,Atropa belladonna
    Dumbcane, Dieffenbachia
    Elephant Ear, Colocasia esculenta
    Foxglove, Digitalis purpurea
    Holly, Ilex
    Iris, Iris
    Jerusalem cherry, Solanum pseudocapsicum
    Jimson weed,Datura stramonium
    Lantana, Lantana camara
    Lily-of-the-valley, Convallaria majalis
    Mayapple, Podophyllum peltatum
    Mistletoe, Viscum album
    American Mistletoe,Phoradendron flavescens
    Morning glory,Ipomoea
    Mountain laurel, Kalmia Iatifolia
    Mushrooms, Assorted
    Nightshade, Salanum spp.
    Oleander, Nerium oleander
    Peace lily, Spathiphyllum
    Philodendron, Philodendron
    Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana
    Pothos, Epipremnum aureum
    Yew, Taxus


  • Only experts can tell poisonous mushrooms from safe mushrooms.
  • Poisonous mushrooms, called "death caps," often grow in yards and park.
  • Eating even a few bites of certain mushrooms can cause liver damage that can kill you.

Alcoholic Drinks and Products 

  • Alcohol can be a deadly poison for children. All of the following are dangerous for children: beer, wine, mixed drinks, other alcoholic beverages, facial cleaners, and mouthwash.
  • Alcohol will make a child sleepy.
  • The child can develop low blood sugar. This can lead to seizures, coma, and death
  • Be careful not to leave alcoholic drinks where children can reach them. Be alert at parties and gatherings. Children may find cups containing leftover alcohol within their reach.

Insect Spray or Lotion 

  • Be sure to check the label on any insect repellent. Most contain DEET, which can harm children if used improperly or in large amounts.
  • Do not allow children to apply repellent to themselves. Have an adult do this for them. When using repellent on a child, put a little on your own hands, then rub them on your child. Avoid the eyes and mouth. Use only a little around the ears.
  • Use separate products when there is a need for insect spray and sunscreen. Do not use sunscreen that contains DEET. Repeatedly applying a product with DEET can increase the risk of harmful effects. Always follow the instructions on the label.
  • For most products, after returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water. Some labels give different advice. Check the label of the product you are using.


Carbon Monoxide - The Silent Killer

With the onset of colder weather, the poison center learns of preventable deaths due to carbon monoxide poisoning. A common scenario is the family who uses a generator indoors to produce heat in the home. The generator creates carbon monoxide into the air that the family breathes, and fatalities occur.

 Carbon monoxide is a gas that is released from the incomplete combustion of a carbon containing substance such as gas, kerosene, wood or charcoal. Common sources include wood fires, gas generators, car engines, and charcoal grills. Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, so it does not have properties to warn people that they are being exposed. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can mimic flu-like symptoms except that the flu-like symptoms improve after the affected person leaves the area with the high concentrations of the carbon monoxide.

 Carbon monoxide detectors can be used in the home as warning devices. Carbon monoxide detectors are not the same as smoke detectors and most smoke detectors do not detect carbon monoxide. The carbon monoxide detector gives an alarm when the levels of the carbon monoxide in the environment rise. This alerts the people in the environment to leave the building and open windows to ventilate the area.  Symptomatic patients should be evaluated by a health care provider. Do not operate any fuel burning appliances until the source of the carbon monoxide has been identified and repaired.

 1. Have a carbon monoxide detector in the house. The detector should meet the requirements of the Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

2. Don’t use a generator or other gasoline-powered engines in an enclosed space.

3. Don’t bring burning charcoal grills into the house.

4. Make sure the chimney flue is clear before using the fireplace. Do not close the damper of the chimney until the fire is completely extinguished and the embers are cold.

5. Don’t run or idle the car engine in the garage.

 Additional useful information about carbon monoxide poisoning and its prevention can be found in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website:


As you begin spring cleaning and work on the yard, follow these simple tips to keep your family safe.

Household Cleaners and Other Chemical Products

  • Keep poisons in the containers they came in. do not use food containers (such as cups or bottles) to store household cleaners and other strong chemicals.
  • Store strong chemicals away from food. Many poisonings occur when one product is mistaken for another
  • Read and follow the directions for use of products. Do this BEFORE using the products. Follow the advice carefully
  • Never mix chemicals. Doing so can create a poisonous gas.
  • Turn on fans and open windows when using strong chemicals
  • When spraying chemicals, direct spray nozzle away from people and pets
  • Never sniff containers to see what’s inside
  • Discard old or outdated products. First aid advice on containers may be incorrect and outdated
  • Call Tennessee Poison Center (1-800-222-1222) to double check first aid information
  • Even in small amounts, windshield wiper fluid is poisonous. If swallowed, it can cause blindness or death to people and pets
  • Strong chemicals can burn the skin. Drain openers, toilet cleaners, rust removers, and oven cleaners can cause such burns
  • Hydrocarbon liquids (liquids made from petroleum) are poisonous. They include gasoline, kerosene, charcoal lighter fluid, paint thinner, baby oil, lamp oil, and furniture polish
    • If hydrocarbons are swallowed, they can easily get into the lungs. Even a small amount can cause breathing problems. The liquid coats the inside of the lungs. That prevents oxygen from entering the bloodstream.


  • Only experts can tell poisonous mushrooms from safe mushroom
  • Poisonous mushrooms, called “death caps”, often grow in yards and parks
  • Eating even a few bites of certain mushrooms can cause liver damage that can kill you


  • Pesticides (pest killers) can be taken in through the skin or inhaled. Even leather shoes and gloves do not offer full protection. Pesticides can be extremely poisonous. Stay away from areas that have been sprayed until the spray has dried or for at least one hour.
  • Wear protective clothing when using bug spray or other spray products. Put on a long-sleeve shirt, long pants, socks, shoes, and gloves. Remove and wash clothing after using chemicals.
  • If pesticides are splashed onto the skin, rinse with running water for 15-20 minutes. If pesticide contacts clothing, take off the clothing before rinsing skin.
  • Many garden chemicals are poisonous to children and adults. These chemicals can be harmful if swallowed or inhaled.

For additional poison prevention information visit