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Poisoning Potentials as Students Start Back to School

Child coloring

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (September 12, 2023) – School is in session, and we remind all teachers, parents, and caregivers to remember to talk with your child(ren) about potential poisons at school. New routines can mean new distractions which could result in unintentional or intentional poisoning.

"When it comes to potential poisons in the school environment, it's crucial for parents, educators, and students to remain vigilant. From cleaning supplies to medications, there are various substances that can pose risks,” says Jeanna Marraffa, the clinical director of the Upstate New York Poison Center. “It's our collective responsibility to educate ourselves and our children about the dangers and preventive measures. By staying informed, we can ensure a safer and healthier school experience for everyone. Save our number, before you need us, 1-800-222-1222.”

During the 2022-2023 school year, we saw an increase in calls for 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. Don’t forget to double-check the exact dose depending on your child’s weight and use caution when using combination products or taking more than one product as it may contain the same ingredients.

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

A scary trend we saw last school year was cannabis exposure at school. Last school year of the 165 calls we received for cannabis edibles, in 32 of the calls the child was exposed to cannabis at a school! Talk to your children about cannabis and its dangers.


  • 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 them with your child. Consider buying a medication lock box.
  • CANNABIS: Store cannabis & cannabis-containing products up high and out of reach and sight of children. If you can, in a medication lock box. Children exposed to cannabis may experience trouble walking, sleepiness, difficulty waking up, and trouble breathing.
  • 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.
  • SCHOOL LUNCH: Keep hot food hot and cold food cold to prevent food poisoning. Pack appropriate lunch items, like ice packs, to prevent food from spoiling. Washing fruits and vegetables beforehand helps remove dirt, bacteria, and pesticides. Encourage children to wash their hands every time before eating.

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.