Eyes, nose, mouth, skin: Four ways poisons can enter the body

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Woman with eye irritation
Many substances can be irritating to the eyes, and the poison center can help. Call 1-800-222-1222.

When you hear the word poisoning, what comes to mind? Is it a young child swallowing something, like a cleaning product?

While swallowing something, such as a medication or a household product, is the most common reason people call the poison center from home, there are several other ways potential poisons can enter the body. Fortunately, the Northern New England Poison Center is here to help you with all of them. Just call 1-800-222-1222, chat online or text POISON to 85511.

Here are the most common ways besides swallowing that poisons enter the body.

Getting something on your skin: Many things can cause symptoms if they come in contact with your skin. Some examples are:

  • Mild irritation from getting gasoline on your hands
  • Itching and burning from touching poison ivy
  • Severe chemical burns from products like drain cleaners

The poison center can give you over-the-phone advice for cleaning up safely and walk you through any other steps you may need to take at home. The poison specialist will also let you know whether you need to go to your doctor or the hospital.

Getting something in your eyes: The eyes are one of the most sensitive parts of the body, and many common products can be quite irritating or even harmful to your eyes. They may cause symptoms like:

  • Burning or stinging from breaking a glow stick open
  • Corneal abrasions from squirting laundry pod liquid
  • Sealing your eyelid shut from mistaking glue for eye drops

The poison center will let you know what to do in each of these cases. Often all you will need to do is rinse your eyes with warm water, and the poison specialist will walk you through the best way to do that. In other cases, the poison center may recommend another treatment, or may suggest you see your doctor or go to the hospital.

Breathing something in: Many fumes and gases can cause symptoms. These can be short-lived, like a headache from briefly inhaling the fumes from an aerosol (spray paint, hair spray), or more serious, from breathing in a dangerous gas like carbon monoxide.

If you are having symptoms after breathing something in, or if your carbon monoxide alarm is going off, get to fresh air. The poison center will let you know when it is safe to go back inside, and will let you know whether you need medical treatment.

Remember the poison center is here for you 24/7, offering quick expert advice in all kinds of situations. Just call 1-800-222-1222, chat online or text POISON to 85511.

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