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Inside Pediatrics Podcast

BIRMINGHAM – Insect stings. Snake bites. Poisonous plants. Don’t let any of these hazards interrupt your summer plans. The Alabama Poison Information Center (APIC) is just a phone call away to keep your family safe while enjoying the great outdoors.

APIC is staffed by nationally certified, specially-trained toxicology experts, including nurses and pharmacists. They provide free and confidential poison information and treatment recommendations to the public and health care providers 24 hours a day. Save the APIC number, 1-800-222-1222, in your cell phone and post it in an easy-to-see location for babysitters or other caregivers in your home.

Insect Repellents

Read the product’s label and follow all directions and precautions, said LaDonna Gaines, manager, Alabama Poison Information Center. “Only apply insect repellents on the outside of your child’s clothing and on exposed skin. Products that contain permethrin should not be applied to skin,” Gaines said.

Never spray insect repellent directly on your child's face. “It’s a good idea to spray a little on your hands first, then rub it on your child’s face avoiding the eyes and mouth,” Gaines said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that insect repellent should not contain more than 30 percent DEET when used on children. Insect repellent shouldn’t be used on children younger than 2 months old.


Insect and Snake Bites

If an insect bites or stings you or your child, apply calamine lotion, baking soda paste, hydrocortisone cream or a topical anesthetic to reduce pain and itching.

“If your child has an allergic reaction to an insect bite or sting, call 9-1-1,” Gaines said. Signs of an allergic reaction include facial swelling or general body swelling; rash over part or the entire body; labored breathing or difficulty swallowing; sweats or chills; nausea or vomiting; or burning and itching of the hands, feet, neck, or site of the wound.

If your child is bitten by a snake, remove rings and constrictive items; keep the child warm and calm and go to the closest emergency room or call 9-1-1. Do not apply a tourniquet or ice, and do not cut or suction the wound, Gaines said.


Poisonous Plants and Mushrooms 

Gaines advises that parents should caution their children about poisonous plants and mushrooms.  Know the names of the plants in your home and yard, and always try to keep poisonous plants away from children and pets.

“Only an expert can tell a safe wild mushroom from a poisonous mushroom,” Gaines said.  “All wild mushrooms ingested by children should be considered potentially dangerous, so contact the Alabama Poison Information Center immediately.”

APIC’s free app, Poison Perils of Alabama, can help identify potentially dangerous plants, snakes, insects and common household items. Poison Perils is available in the App Store and Google Play Store.



Hydrocarbons such as gasoline and tiki torch oil are a concern if ingested. “They can cause chemical pneumonia, and this applies not only for children but for adults who may siphon gasoline to use in recreational vehicles,” Gaines said.

If one of these products is ingested, Gaines said to contact APIC immediately.


APIC is a fully accredited poison center by the American Association of Poison Control Centers and serves the entire state of Alabama as the only accredited statewide center as designated by the Alabama Department of Public Health. The center has been housed at Children’s of Alabama since 1958.

About Children’s of Alabama

Since 1911, Children’s of Alabama has provided specialized medical care for ill and injured children, offering inpatient, outpatient and primary care throughout central Alabama. Ranked among the best children’s hospitals in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, Children’s serves patients from every county in Alabama and nearly every state. Children’s is a private, not-for-profit medical center that serves as the teaching hospital for the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) pediatric medicine, surgery, psychiatry, research and residency programs. The medical staff consists of UAB faculty and Children’s full-time physicians as well as private practicing community physicians.

Visit our Online Newsroom for the latest from Children’s of Alabama.