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Seasonal Tips: Winter (PDF, 136 KB)

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When accidents happen with chemicals or medicine, call Poison Help (1-800-222-1222). Get help right away from a nurse, pharmacist, or other poison expert.


Many people think poinsettias and Christmas cacti are poisonous. They aren't. But here are some real dangers to watch out for in winter:


• Antifreeze is a poisonous liquid used in cars. It has a sweet taste. Children and animals like its taste. If even a little is swallowed, it can be harmful. It can cause kidney damage and death.

• Keep antifreeze, and all strong chemicals, in the containers they came in. Cap them tightly. Store them in a locked cabinet.

• Before throwing away an antifreeze container, rinse it with water. Replace the safety cap. Place the container in the trash.


• If eaten, salt used on driveways and sidewalks in winter can harm a pet or child.

• Store such salt with other poisons. Keep it out of reach and in a locked cabinet.


• Avoid using glass mercury thermometers. A glass thermometer can break in a child's mouth.

• Use a digital thermometer to avoid the risk of breaking glass.

• Stay with children when taking their temperature

• Mercury is a hazardous waste. Spilled mercury should be cleaned up properly. Call Poison Help (1-800-222-1222) or your local health department for advice.

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

• CO is the #1 cause of poison deaths. Every year, CO poisoning results in hundreds of deaths. It causes many thousands of illnesses.

• CO is a poisonous gas. It has no color, odor, or taste. All fuel-burning devices make CO. They do this mostly when they aren't working properly, or are not used in a ventilated space. CO can collect in closed areas.

Sources of CO include:

• gas furnaces

• gas water heaters

• gas stoves

• gas ovens

• kerosene space heaters

• wood and gas fireplaces

• wood-burning stoves

• power generators

• car engines

People at greatest risk for CO poisoning are:

• pregnant women

• infants

• young children

• older people

• people with diseases that affect breathing

• people with heart disease

Signs of CO poisoning are similar to signs common to flu and some cold-weather viruses:
• headaches

• nausea

• vomiting

• dizziness

• confusion

To prevent CO poisonings in your home:
• Have at least one CO alarm in your home.The best places for a CO alarm are near bedrooms and close to furnaces.

• Have your heating system, vents, and chimney checked every year by experts.

• Always follow product instructions for installing and repairing appliances that burn fuel.
• Never burn charcoal inside a house or garage.

• Never use a gas oven to heat a house or apartment.

• Never use unvented fuel-burning devices in a house or apartment.

• Never run a car in a closed garage.

Department of Health and Human Services
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Health Resources and Services Administration


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