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Poisoning Potentials as Students Head Back to the Classroom

Students at school looking at a computer.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (September 12, 2022) – School is in full swing and a reminder to talk with your child(ren) about potential poisons at school & the influence of video trends. Always remember that new routines can mean new distractions which could result in an unintentional or intentional poisoning. 

“Each school year brings new poisoning potentials, plus an uptick in calls to our center for medication errors, drug concerns and playground poisoning mishaps,” says Michele Caliva, administrative director of the Upstate New York Poison Center. “We are prepared for any call that comes our way, but we urge all families to talk with their children about not joining the bandwagon of video trends with potential poisoning risks, why to never take medicine from someone else, and encourage teens to memorize our number & save it in their cell phone: 1-800-222-1222.”

During the 2021-2022 school year, our poison center managed an alarming number of cases of children and teens who were unintentionally poisoned by pain medicines (i.e., ibuprofen and acetaminophen). The child could have been given an unintentional extra dose, maybe the child found the medicine themselves and took it, or the child took the wrong kind/strength.

For children six to 12, the top three calls from a parent or caregiver we handled last school year were for pain medicines, cosmetics/personal care products, and antihistamines. For teens 13 – 19, their top three were for pain medicines, antidepressants, and antihistamines.

The biggest change in our calls over last school year for the teen age group (13-19), is for intentional poisoning cases. They continue to increase year after year. We encourage you to talk to your child about self-harm and save the new three-digit phone number for Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: 988.


  • VIDEO TRENDS: With the ever-increasing popularity of various social media channels, so too has come viral trends that can be dangerous to kids and teens. Teach your child(ren) to not take part in any potentially poisonous video challenges they see on channels like YouTube, TikTok or Instagram. Some children might try to mimic popular video stars, but challenges like the “Benadryl Challenge,” “Tide Pod Challenge” or “Cinnamon Challenge” can lead to poisonings and possibly a hospital visit.
  • MEDICATIONS: Teach children to never take medicine meant for someone else, it could be a deadly mistake. Keep all medicines up & away from children. Carefully read and follow directions and warnings on all labels before taking or giving medicine. Schools have medication policies, so be sure to find out what they are and discuss with your child. Consider buying a medication lock box.

  • SCHOOL LUNCH: It is important to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold to prevent food poisoning. Pack appropriate lunch items that will not spoil in a lunch box. Washing fruits and vegetables beforehand helps remove dirt, bacteria, and pesticides. Encourage children to wash their hands every time before eating.
  • PLAYGROUNDS: Playgrounds can be a breeding ground for poisonous and non-poisonous mushrooms. It is hard to tell the difference. Teach children to never pick a mushroom. If they do, wash their hands, and then call us.


In the case of a poisoning or for information purposes, call the Upstate New York Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222. We are open 24/7, 365 days a year. Each year our center manages more than 50,000 calls from health care providers, 911 operators, hospitals, industry, schools, and the general public in our 54-county service area.

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About Upstate New York Poison Center

Housed inside Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY, the Upstate New York Poison Center is dedicated to reducing the number, cost and severity of poisonings within its designated 54-county service area as mandated by New York State Law. The Center is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to both health professionals and the general public at 1-800-222-1222.

About Upstate Medical University

SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY, is the only academic medical center in Central New York. It is also the region's largest employer with 9,460 employees. Affiliated with the State University of New York, Upstate's mission is to improve the health of the community through education, biomedical research and health care.