What to Do If Your Child Accidentally Ingests Medicines or Vitamins


Contact Poison Control right away if you think your child might have gotten into medicine or vitamins, even if you are not completely sure. Free and confidential expert help is available by phone at 1-800-222-1222 or online via webPOISONCONTROL®. If the child collapses, has a seizure, has trouble breathing, or can’t be awakened – or you have any other concerns – call 911 IMMEDIATELY.


Each year there are about 50,000 emergency department visits caused by young children ingesting medicines that are left out and within reach.

In some cases, parents likely know that their child took too much medicine by noticing an empty bottle nearby or watching their child swallow extra pills before being able to stop them. Other times, a curious child may have taken medicine or vitamins when a parent was not looking.

Regardless of the circumstances, it is important to not only understand how you can prevent kids from ingesting medicines and vitamins, but also what actions to take in case of an emergency – before one actually occurs.

How Do I Know If My Child Needs Help?

Short answer – a child that swallowed the wrong medicine or too much medicine may or may not look, act, or feel sick. The same goes for vitamins and other types of dietary supplements.

But do not wait to act.

If your child stops breathing, collapses, has a seizure, or can’t be awakened, these are signs of an emergency that warrants an immediate call to 911.

Whether a child seems sick or not, don’t guess what to do. Contact Poison Control.

What Happens When I Contact Poison Control?

There are two ways to get expert help from Poison Control, and both options are free and confidential:

Call Poison Control

Call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 for expert guidance. You will speak directly to a poison specialist who is a registered nurse or pharmacist. These specialists are available to take your call 24 hours a day.

If possible, bring the medicine or vitamin container to the phone. You will be asked to provide a quick summary of the situation, as well as to answer several questions that are necessary for the poison specialist to make an accurate assessment of the situation’s severity. The poison specialist will then guide you through recommendations for treatment.

You can also call with questions about poison and poison prevention, not just emergencies.

webPOISONCONTROL

If you need help, but prefer not to call, use the webPOISONCONTROL online tool to get personalized treatment recommendations – in less than 3 minutes. The tool bases its recommendations on information you provide about the incident, such as the name of the substance, amount, and age of the exposed person.

The tool’s recommendation could be:

  • It is safe to stay home because toxicity is minimal – you will be given information on certain symptoms that are likely to occur and not of concern, and signs to look for that mean you should call Poison Control or go to the ER.
  • Go to the Emergency Room.
  • Call Poison Control for further guidance.

Be prepared by saving Poison Control’s contact information. It’s as easy as texting poison to 484848 or downloading a vcard that has the Poison Control phone number and link to online help. The webPOISONCONTROL tool is also available as an app on your mobile device, which can be downloaded on the App Store or Google play.

Krista Osterthaler, MPH

Meet Our Experts

Krista Osterthaler, MPH

Krista Osterthaler, MPH, is the Director of Strategic Partnerships for the National Capital Poison Center in Washington, DC, the nonprofit organization that developed webPOISONCONTROL. In addition to her master’s degree in Public Health, Krista has a Graduate Certificate in Epidemiology from The George Washington University. Krista began her career as a high school biology teacher, first joining poison control as a poisoning prevention educator in 2011. Krista has since served as a Vice President for the American Association of Poison Control Centers, Chair of the National Poisoning Prevention Council, and Director of Programs and Research at Safe Kids Worldwide.