Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 5: Facilities, Supplies, Equipment, and Environmental Health

5.2 Quality of the Outdoor and Indoor Environment

5.2.9 Prevention and Management of Toxic Substances Use of a Poison Center

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 8/27/2020.

The Poison Control phone number, 1-800-222-1222, should be called for advice about any exposure to toxic substances or potential poisoning as soon as possible after exposure. Toxic substances could include medications, plants, berries or mushrooms, bites or stings, cleaning products, consumer products, and other chemicals. Exposure to toxic substances can happen if children swallow, inhale, or splash a product on their eyes or skin. Some common poisoning symptoms include dermatitis, dizziness, drowsiness, disorientation and/or sudden changes in behavior, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, trouble breathing, pain, headaches, and feeling faint.1,2 If a child is unconscious, has a seizure, or is having trouble breathing, call 911 immediately.

Caregivers/teachers should feel comfortable calling Poison Control about medication dosing errors. The caregiver/teacher should not induce vomiting unless instructed by Poison Control.

The caregiver/teacher should be prepared for the call by having the following information for the Poison Control specialist:

  • The child’s age and sex
  • The substance involved
  • The estimated amount
  • The child’s condition
  • The time elapsed since ingestion or exposure

The national help line for Poison Control is 1-800-222-1222, and specialists will link the caregiver/teacher with their local poison center.3 The national help line number should be posted in a visible location or be added to a phone/contact list. Poison centers provide free, confidential advice on how to handle the situation. The advice should be followed and documented in the early care and education program’s files.

Depending on the cause prompting a call to poison control there may be a need for updated education on the subject for caregivers/teachers and/or children as well as implementation of improved health and safety practices.


Toxic substances, when ingested, inhaled, or in contact with skin, may react immediately or slowly, with serious symptoms occurring much later.3 It is important for the caregiver/teacher to call Poison Control immediately after the exposure and not “wait and see.”4 Symptoms of poisoning vary with the type of substance involved.


Caregivers/teachers should be knowledgeable and intentional about keeping all potential poisonous or harmful substances out of reach of children so that poisonings or ingestion of harmful substances are not treated as possible maltreatment cases, resulting in false, inappropriate criminal and protective services investigations of the ECE program.5


Caregivers/teachers can go to or for additional information on poisoning and poison safety. They can also access a variety of services that poison centers have, such as poison prevention; poison control; information about toxic substances, including lead and chemicals that may be found in consumer products; and assistance with disaster planning.


Early care and education programs can also use the webPoisonControl online tool ( or for questions about a poison or to obtain poison prevention information.5

Poison Prevention & Treatment Tips

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Pre-service Training Topics Covered in Pediatric First Aid Training Use and Storage of Toxic Substances Prohibition of Poisonous Plants
Appendix P: Situations that Require Medical Attention Right Away
  1. NorthShore University HealthSystem. NorthShore medical toxicology. Symptoms of poisoning, exposures & treatments. Accessed May 18, 2020
  2. KidsHealth. First aid: poisoning. Reviewed July 2018. Accessed May 18, 2020
  3. Poison Control, National Capital Poison Center. Get help from Poison Control online or by phone. Accessed May 18, 2020
  4. American Academy of Pediatrics. Poison prevention & treatment tips. website. Updated March 15, 2019. Accessed May 18, 2020

  5. Hines, E. (2016). Child abuse by poisoning. Clinical Pediatric Emergency Medicine, 17(4), 296-301.


Content in the STANDARD was modified on 8/27/2020.