Poison center calls about pesticides increase during the spring and summer. Pesticides are substances that get rid of insects, weeds, molds and other unwanted living things. These substances are poisonous when swallowed, inhaled or spilled on the skin.

Pesticides can get into the body through residue left on fruits and vegetables. Wash and scrub all produce thoroughly under running water to remove pesticides, dirt and bacteria. Peel produce and remove the outer leaves of leafy vegetables. Organic produce, which is grown without the use of man-made pesticides, has less pesticide residue. Most poisonings occur while a product is in use.

  • Store pesticides in a locked cabinet or out of reach of children.
  • Close containers securely to avoid accidental spills.
  • Use original containers to prevent accidental ingestion.
  • Safely dispose of pesticides not in use.
    • Contact the Poison Center, State Environmental Agency, or the local office of the Environmental Protection Agency for instructions.

Precautions for inside use, before you spray:

  • Prepare and use the product exactly as directed on the label.
  • Use the product ONLY for what it is intended.
  • Do not use an outdoor spray indoors.
  • Keep children and others out of the area while spraying.
  • Remove or cover bedding with a sheet before spraying.
  • Place stuffed toys and clothes in closed containers, drawers or in a plastic trash bag.
  • Securely close cupboards containing dishes and open food.

After you spray:

  • Leave the area for several hours while the pesticide works.
  • Afterwards, open doors and windows for several hours to air the house out.
  • Then wash countertops and surfaces, mop floors, and vacuum the furniture and rugs.

Precautions for outside use:

  • DO NOT use sprays if it is windy outside.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants, socks and shoes.
  • Do not wear leather products. Some pesticides contaminate leather permanently.
  • Follow label recommendations for personal protection (lungs, skin, eyes).
  • After spraying, remove clothing before entering the main parts of the house and wash it separately.

Effects of pesticide poisoning vary and may include some of the following:

  • Sore throat, eye irritation, nose and sinus irritation
  • Sneezing, itching, rash and asthma-like breathing problems
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • General illness and flu like symptoms
  • Drooling, sweating and teary eyes

Examples of pesticide poison center calls:

  • My two-year-old just swallowed the weed killer. Her tongue and mouth are very red. She just vomited three times. Is this bad?
  • My daughter and her friends played in the neighbor’s yard for three hours this afternoon. The grass was sprayed yesterday with some kind of chemical. Should I worry?
  • My husband misunderstood the label on the ant and roach spray. He closed all the doors and windows after spraying the family room, and then stayed in the room instead of leaving the area. He is coughing and sneezing. His asthma is acting up. Does he need to go to the hospital?
  • My wife works for a pesticide company. Her coworker accidentally spilled pesticide on her yesterday. She removed the uniform, washed thoroughly and seemed fine. Today she wore the same uniform for a couple of hours and started vomiting, has diarrhea and is really sweaty. Could this be related?

Pesticide poisoning can be very serious. If you suspect that pesticide poisoning has occurred, remove the person from the environment right away. Take off all clothing. Wash him or her with soap and water, rinsing several times. Call the local poison center at 1-800-222-1222. This hotline number is also appropriate for poison-related questions before pesticide use.