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Inside Pediatrics Podcast

Birmingham, Ala. (March 17, 2023) — The Alabama Poison Information Center encourages parents to consider spring hazards during National Poison Prevention Week. National Poison Prevention Week begins on Sunday, March 19, and runs through Saturday, March 25. It was established in 1961 by Congress to raise awareness of poison prevention and safety. More than 2 million potential poisonings are reported in the United States each year, with more than 90% occurring in the home, most of them being young children.

Becky DeVore, the nurse educator for the Alabama Poison Information Center at Children’s of Alabama, says most of the center’s frequent calls involve pediatric patients ages five and younger. In this pediatric age group, the number one call centers receive nationwide is about cleaning products. The center also answers calls about pesticides, analgesics, cosmetics, bites and stings.

“We are here 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and registered nurses and pharmacists answer our hotline,” said DeVore. “We can help everyone, including health professionals.”

DeVore says the center receives more than 40,000 calls a year. She says those calls increase during the spring and summer months because people are spending more time outside, which makes this an excellent time to remind parents of some of the hazards they could encounter.

Bites and Stings:

According to the Alabama Poison Information Center, treatment for bites and stings varies depending on what causes the symptoms. DeVore warns parents to be careful with insect repellent.

“We want parents to read the package direction and follow them closely,” said DeVore. “Do not use DEET on a child 2-months or younger, and we don’t want parents to spray it directly on a child’s face. Spray it in your hands and then wipe the child’s face; that is usually sufficient.”

Click this link for a list of poisonous insects found in Alabama.


The Alabama Poison Information Center says children are drawn to the bright colors found in plants and seeds or to the berries and flowers they produce. However, some of these plants can be dangerous if they are ingested.

“When you are picking out plants at your local nursery, you can always ask the staff about the toxicity of the plant and choose the best one for your situation.” Said DeVore. “We also have an app called Poison Perils of Alabama that has a quiz, and it will teach you about toxic and non-toxic plants.”

DeVore also says parents should teach their children not to eat wild mushrooms or berries or touch plants.

Click this link for a list of toxic plants found in Alabama, and you can download the app from the Apple Store and Google Play.

Cleaning Supplies:

Spring cleaning is one of the most popular activities during this time of the year.  With that comes the risk of children encountering a poisonous household item.

“Do not ever mix chemicals; you can actually make a toxic gas,” said DeVore. “When you breathe it in, it can cause coughing and shortness of breath, and it can also cause burning in the nose, throat, and eyes. Use chemicals in a well-ventilated area. If you are using a chemical and you are interrupted, take the product with you. Most exposures happen when the product is used, and someone is interrupted.”

Click this link for a list of Alabama's most common and poisonous household items.

DeVore says another reason why calls to the Alabama Poison Information Center increase in the warmer months is that people travel more. She encourages parents to think about what they are packing.

“A lot of times, people bring their medication and cosmetics that children are very curious about,” said DeVore. We recommend that when you get to your destination, take anything harmful out of the suitcase and store it up and away from children. You should also lock up any medication.”

The Alabama Poison Information Center has been serving the state since 1958. Call the center’s hotline at 1-800-222-1222 for poison advice for all ages. The nationwide number will route you to the closest poison center based on your area code.