Frequently Asked Questions

Choose from the categories below for more information:

General Poison Issues

Q: How much of _______ would it take to kill or hurt someone?

A: The GPC does not directly answer questions of this nature. There is the potential for the information provided to be used intentionally to harm someone.

Q: How much _______ would it take to poison my child?

A: There is not one answer to this question. It depends on the type of poison, the amount of poison involved, and the age, size and weight of the victim.

Q: What is the most common poison?

A: There is not one poison that is the most common for all ages. The most common poisons for children under the age of six are:

  • Cosmetics and personal care products
  • Cleaning substances
  • Analgesics (Tylenol, Advil, etc.)
  • Plants
  • Cough and cold preparations
  • Foreign bodies

Emergency Response

Q: What should I do if my child swallows?

A: Call or start a CHAT session with the Poison Center immediately. Because every poisoning is different, the treatment advice will differ depending on the type and amount of poison involved, and the age, size, weight and medical history of the victim.

Q: What is activated charcoal?

A: Activated charcoal is an adsorbing agent that is used in specific cases of poisoning.  Activated Charcoal works by limiting the absorption of certain poisons in the stomach.  Activated charcoal should only be used after consulting with the poison center.

Q: Does the GPC recommend using activated charcoal in the home?

A: The Georgia Poison Center does not recommend activated charcoal for home use at this time.   Call the poison center for more information on the use activated charcoal.

Q: What does a poisoned person look like?

A: A poisoned victim may or may not look, act or feel sick. If you suspect a poisoning has occurred, call the GPC immediately. Do not wait for symptoms.


Household Products

Q: My child likes to eat his/her toothpaste. Is this dangerous?

A: The active ingredient for most toothpaste products is fluoride. Generally speaking there is not enough fluoride in a tube of toothpaste to cause serious toxicity. However, ingesting large amounts of toothpaste over a prolonged period of time can result in nausea and vomiting.  Call or start a live CHAT with the poison center for more information.

Q: What should I do with the mercury from a broken thermometer so no one gets poisoned?

A: If mercury is spilled and not cleaned up properly, it vaporizes over time. The fumes generated are poisonous if inhaled. Any spilled mercury should be cleaned up immediately to prevent vaporization. Call or CHAT with the GPC for advice on cleaning up spilled mercury.

Q: Can mouthwash be dangerous?

A:Yes! All mouthwash products contain alcohol in varying amounts. Mouthwash such as Listerine® contain the highest percentage of alcohol. To a young child, even a small amount of alcohol can be problematic. Keep in mind that a child has the potential to drink a large amount of a mouthwash because most mouthwash products tastes good. Keep all mouthwash and other hygiene products out of the sight and reach of children in a LOCKED cabinet.  For more information, call or CHAT with one of our poison information specialists.



Q: Are Poinsettias really deadly?

A: Poinsettias are not deadly as commonly thought. If chewed and ingested, poinsettias can cause stomach upset and mouth irritation.  Keep in mind however that if the leaf is swallowed whole, the potential for airway obstruction is great.  All plants should be kept out of the reach of children and pets.  If you have other questions about plants in or outside of your house, call or CHAT with one of our poison information specialists.



Q: When buying an insect repellent for children, how much DEET is harmful?

A: DEET (N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide ) is one of the most common ingredients in insect repellants. DEET is absorbed through the skin and in high concentrations is thought to have harmful side effects.  For parents worried about the safety of DEET, continuing to use a product with a low concentration of DEET (<30%) or a non-DEET repellent are good alternatives. Insect repellents without DEET include those made with soybean oil and citronella. In general, they are not thought to provide as much protection or last as long as repellents with DEET.  Please note that insect repellents are not recommended for children younger than 2 months.

Always read the label before using any repellent.  For more information about the safety of other pesticides and insecticides, call or CHAT with one of our poison information specialists.



Q: I found some pills in an unlabeled bottle. How do I find out what they are?

A: If no one has ingested or taken the pill you need identified, email the Georgia Poison Center and connect with a LIVE poison specialist for an immediate answer to your question.  If you are concerned about the possible ingestion of an unknown pill or medicine, immediately call or CHAT with one of our poison information specialist now to get further advise.

*Important update*-  the Georgia Poison Center’s policy for pill identification will change very soon. In the coming months, we will no longer be providing live responses to pill identification requests. Callers requiring this service will be directed to an interactive, state-of -the-art, voice response system that can, after answering a few questions, provide answers to your pill identification inquiries.

Q: Is it dangerous to take expired medicine?

A: Yes! Medicine potency changes over time leaving it in a toxic or ineffective form. The expiration date is provided for your protection. Never take expired medicine.

Q: If my medicine has expired, what is the proper way to dispose of it?

A: These are the Federal guidelines for the proper disposal of prescription drugs:

  1. Take leftover, unneeded, or expired prescription drugs out of their original containers.
  2. Mix the prescription drugs with an unwanted substance like used coffee grounds or kitty litter, and put them in a waterproof, plain container such as empty cans or sealable bags. Hide these containers inside other containers such as paper bags.
  3. Throw these containers in the trash.
  4. If you have any questions about what to do with leftover, unneeded, or expired prescription medication, please call the Georgia Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 or contact your local pharmacy.
  5. Prescription Drug Disposal – Drop Box Locations


Q: What do I do if my pet gets poisoned?

A: The Georgia Poison Center can answer your questions concerning your pets who have been poisoned.  Please call 1-800-222-1222, your veterinarian, the Pet Poison Helpline (1.800.213.6680), or the Animal Poison Control Center  (1.888.426.4435) immediately for further assistance.



Q: What is rabies?

A: Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus. The rabies virus is found in the saliva and brain tissue of infected (rabid) animals. The rabies virus does not live in the blood of animals.

Q: How is rabies spread?

A: Rabies can be spread from animal to animal, or animal to human. Rabies is spread when the saliva or brain tissue of an infected (rabid) animal gets in the mouth, the eyes, or an open cut. Rabies is most often spread to animals and humans through a bite from an infected animal.

Q: What animals can get rabies?

A: Rabies is carried mainly by wild animals like raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats. Humans, dogs, and cats can also get rabies. Squirrels, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, chipmunks, rats, mice, and rabbits usually do not get rabies.

Q: Can I get rabies?

A: You could get rabies if a rabid animal bites or scratches you or if its saliva or brain tissue gets in your mouth, your eye, or an open cut. Rabies can be prevented in humans if medical treatment is started soon after contact with the rabies virus. If left untreated, rabies is always deadly.

Q: Can my pet get rabies?

A: If your pet has not had its rabies shots, it could get rabies. This is why keeping your pet’s rabies shots up-to-date is important.

Q:What does a rabid animal look like?

A: Rabid animals may act tame. They may also display strange or unusual behavior. They may act aggressive, avoid food and water, foam at the mouth, or have trouble moving. Stay away from any unknown animals, especially wildlife. Report any unusual acting animal to your county Animal Control office.

Q: What if another animal bites my pet?

A: If another animal bites your pet, call the Georgia Poison Center, your County Animal Control office, or your veterinarian right away. They will tell you what to do.

Q: What if an animal bites me?

A: Wash the bite area with warm, soapy water. Next, call the Georgia Poison Center or your doctor right away. They will tell you if you need medical treatment. Treatment consists of a total of five shots given over the course of one month. The shots are no more painful than any other shot. Shots are usually given near the area of the bite, or in the arm or the buttocks.

Q: How can I protect my pet from rabies?

A: Keep your pet’s rabies shots up-to-date. According to Georgia law, dogs, cats, and ferrets must get rabies shot when they are 3-4 months old and every year after that. Call your veterinarian for more details on rabies shots for your pet. Keep your pet in the house, a fenced yard, or on a leash when out and about. Remember, if your pet is free to wander, it is more likely to come in contact with a stray, or a wild animal like a skunk, fox, or raccoon.  If this happens, contact the poison center immediately for further advise.

Q: How can I help protect myself and my family from rabies?

  • Make sure your pets get their rabies shots regularly
  • Do not leave your pets unattended outdoors.
  • Do not leave garbage or pet food outside. Food left out may attract wild or stray animals.
  • Stay away from wild, sick, hurt, or dead animals. Do not pick up or move sick or hurt animals. If you find a wild, sick, or hurt animal, call your County Animal Control office.
  • Do not keep wild animals like raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes, and wolves as pets. It is dangerous and also illegal
  • Teach your children not to go near, tease, or play with wild animals or unknown dogs and cats

The Georgia Poison Center

Q: Is there more than one Poison Center in Georgia?

A: No. The Georgia Poison Center is the official poison center of the state. The center is accredited and certified as a Regional Poison Information Center by the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC).

Q: Can I call the Georgia Poison Center if I just have a question, not a poison emergency?

A: Yes! The Georgia Poison Center can answer all your questions about potentially poisonous substances.  You can also engage us in a LIVE CHAT, or even E-mail  your question and connect with one of our poison information specialists now!

Q: Who staffs the poison center emergency hotlines?

A: The 24 hour emergency hotlines are answered by highly trained Specialists in Poison Information (SPIs), registered nurses, pharmacists, and   physicians.  In addition, a team of board certified toxicologists are on staff for additional back-up around the clock.


Pill Identification

Q: My child may have swallowed medicine they found on the floor. I was able to take a pill out of their mouth. Can you identify this medicine for me?

A:  The Georgia Poison Center can help you in this  EXPOSURE situation.  Either call us on the Poison Hotline (1.800.222.1222) or move your mouse pointer over to the LIVE CHAT icon and start up a conversation with one of our Poison Information Specialists.

Q: I just moved in to my new apartment. I was cleaning the bathroom and found this pill in the cabinet. No one has taken this medicine. Can you identify the pill for me?

A:  The Georgia Poison Center will do their best to identify this pill for you.  You can do one of three things to get this question answered.

  1. Call us on the Poison Hotline at 1.800.222.1222
  2. You can move your mouse pointer over to the right and click on the E-mail icon.  Have your email question answered in real time by a poison information specialist.
  3. Start a LIVE CHAT by clicking on the LIVE CHAT icon to your right.   Poison information specialists are standing by to answer your question NOW!

Poison Prevention

Q: Where can I buy safety locks?

A: Any store specializing in items for infants or children should carry safety locks. In addition, some grocery stores and pharmacies carry safety locks.

Q: What is the law regarding child resistant containers or CRC’s?

A: Since 1970, the Consumer Products Safety Commission has enforced the Poison Prevention Packaging Act (PPP) (15 U.S.C. 1471 – 1476). The Act requires child-resistant packaging for various drugs and household products. Child-resistant packaging is designed to be significantly difficult for children under the age of five to open or obtain a toxic amount within a reasonable time and not difficult for normal adults to open. Child-resistant packaging does not mean the packaging is child proof. Some children can open child-resistant containers.

The CPSC revised its child-resistant packaging regulations in 1996 to ensure the packaging is both child-resistant and “adult-friendly”. Now child-resistant packaging is tested with children under the age of five and with adults ages 50-70. A variety of adult-friendly child-resistant packaging styles are now being used.

Q: May an individual request that all of his/her prescriptions be filled in non-child-resistant packaging?

A: Yes. A patient may request a pharmacist, preferably in writing, to have all of his/her medicines placed in non-child resistant containers.  Please keep in mind however, that if you have young nieces or nephews, even grandchildren visiting your home, the risk of accidental poisoning rises dramatically.  Keep all medications, prescription and over-the-counter drugs up and out of the reach of children at all times.  Browse our website for other safety tips to minimize poisonings in your household!


Careers At GPC

Q: I just moved into town and was wondering if the poison center is hiring. What job opportunities are available?

A:  The Georgia Poison Center is an exciting place to work at.  The type of opportunities we have include:

  1. Administrative Assistants
  2. IT Specialists
  3. Registered Nurses
  4. Registered Pharmacists
  5. Health Education Specialists

Check out our JOB BOARD and see what positions we are currently recruiting for!