Summer is a time for enjoying the outdoors. However, it is important to remember that these favored months can bring an increase in the incidence of poisoning accidents for our children and loved ones.

Food poisoning

  • Always wash hands and counters before preparing food. Use clean utensils for cooking and serving.
  • Store, cook, and reheat food at the proper temperatures. Refrigerated foods should not be left out at temperatures above 40°F (5°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, cutting boards, utensils, and dishes with hot, soapy water after handling raw meat, poultry or seafood.
  • 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.

Insect bites

  • Be alert to insects that may bite or sting, particularly mosquitoes, ticks, bees, wasps, and hornets.
  • After a sting, the skin will show redness and swelling and may be itchy and painful.
  • Insect stings may cause serious problems and even death for those who are allergic to them. 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.

Bees, Wasps, Hornets, Yellow Jackets

    • For most, stings will cause some pain and discomfort, the area around the sting may experience redness or discoloration, swelling, and itching.
    • For those with allergies to these insects stings may cause rash, itching all over, wheezing, trouble breathing, and shock.  Allergic reactions to these insects could be life threatening, and emergency support should be sought IMMEDIATELY.
    • After a sting make sure the stinger is immediately removed.


    • Mosquitoes may carry potentially dangerous illnesses, the two most commonly found in New Jersey are; West Nile Virus, and Eastern Equine Encephalitis.
    • Although difficult to completely avoid mosquitoes, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of being bitten by these common pests
      • Empty or change outdoor standing water
      • Use screens in all windows and doors, make sure any holes in these screens are immediately fixed.
      • Use EPA registered insect repellent  containing DEET when attending outdoor gatherings or activities.


    • Ticks are commonly found all around New Jersey (not only in wooded areas or tall grass).
    • Ticks may carry potentially dangerous illnesses.  Tick borne illnesses most commonly found in New Jersey are; Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Lyme Disease, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
    • Some early signs of tick-borne illnesses include; skin rash, tiredness, fever/chills, headache, still neck, muscle aches, joint pain, & dizziness.
    • Although ticks are very commonly found around New Jersey (and the United States),  there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of being bitten by a tick;
      • Ticks are most commonly found in or near wooded or grassy areas.  Always walk on paths or the perimeter of these areas and if you know you’ll be in these areas cover up; wear long sleeves and long pants, tuck pants into boots or socks.
      • Keep your yard clean; mow grass, clear brush and remove leaves.
      • Use EPA registered insect repellent  containing DEET.
      • After being in areas that are likely to contain ticks shower immediately to wash off unattached ticks and inspect your body to check for ticks.
        • When inspecting for ticks be sure to check; under the arms, in/around the ears, inside belly button, back of the knees, in/around hair, between the legs, around the waits, and on the scalp.

Snake bites

  • If a poisonous snake bites you or someone you know, call the Poison Help Hotline (800-222-1222) right away.
  • The experts at your poison control 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. Check with your doctor to find out if you need a tetanus booster shot.

Insect spray or lotion

  • Be sure to check the label on any insect repellent for usage advice, and dangerous chemicals.
  • Have an adult apply repellent to children. When using repellent on a child, put a little on your own hands, then rub them on your child. Avoid the eyes and mouth, and use only a little around the ears.
  • Use separate products when there is a need for insect spray and sunscreen. Follow the label instructions.
  • After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water.


  • If you are allergic to Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, or Poison Sumac, touching it can cause blisters on your skin. If you touch one of these plants, rinse right away with plenty of running water for at least 5 minutes.
  • Be sure that everyone in your family can identify these plants. Remember, “leaves of three, let them be.”
  • Unless you are a plant expert, do not pick your own foods to eat in the wild.
  • Call the Poison Help Hotline (1-800-222-1222) to find out about poisonous plants in your area.

Alcoholic drinks and products

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

Source: HRSA Poison Help website (