Summertime, 4th of July poison prevention advice offered


As the weather and seasons change, so do the types of calls to the Nebraska Regional Poison Center. Some examples of calls to the Poison Center in the summer months include bites and stings, insect repellents, hydrocarbons, glow sticks, fireworks, food poisoning, and swimming pool chlorine. Seasonal poison prevention and safety is always a high priority.

Bites and Stings: This category includes bee stings, spider and snake bites. Close observation for allergic reactions is important, especially in the first hour after a sting. Ice is okay for most stings and bites, except snake bites. Some of the old treatment “remedies” are not correct. Always call the Poison Center for assistance.

Insect Repellents: Most insect repellents contain DEET (also known as N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide). Use DEET concentrations that are less than 20%. A higher concentration does not mean that the product will work better, only that it may be effective longer. Only use insect repellents that are intended for skin use. Avoid over-application. Use repellents outdoors only and wash skin with soap and water when coming inside. Picardin containing repellents are a safe alternative. Follow all label directions.  

Hydrocarbons: This category includes gasoline, kerosene, lighter fluids and torch fuels. One of the main risks with ingestion is that the oil may “slip” into the lung causing a chemical pneumonia. Store all these products in original containers out or reach and sight of children.

Glow Sticks: Glow sticks are a common call to the Poison Center. The liquid on contact with mouth, skin and eyes can be irritating. 

Fireworks: Fireworks may contain several toxic chemicals and can be dangerous if swallowed. Always call the Poison Center for case specific recommendations.

Food Poisoning: When firing up the grill or heading to a picnic, it’s important to take some precautions. Remember to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. The USDA recommends fully cooking all meats to ensure bacteria are destroyed to prevent food poisoning. Meats should be cooked to 160 degrees. Always use a food thermometer.

Swimming Pool Chlorine: Skin and eye contact with overly chlorinated pools may result in redness and a burning sensation. Rinse your skin and eyes immediately if you suspect an exposure, contact the lifeguard/pool manager, and call the Poison Center. When maintaining pools, be aware that opening a container of chlorine pool tablets may cause coughing or chest tightness. Seek fresh air immediately and call the Poison Center.


The Nebraska Regional Poison Center is a free community service to the public. Call 1-800-222-1222 and talk immediately to a Registered Nurse or Pharmacist 24/7/365.