Important summer safety tips from Poison Control


JACKSONVILLE — As people spend more time outdoors and the summer season officially gets underway, the Florida/USVI Poison Information Center – Jacksonville is providing beneficial information to help keep your family safe.

“This year, more than ever, people are looking to get outside after they’ve been in their homes for the past few months during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Dawn Sollee, director of the Florida/USVI Poison Information Center – Jacksonville. “Every summer we see a significant increase in poisonings and expect to see spikes again this year. We traditionally see a jump of 30% or more in cases involving pool chemicals, snake bites, jellyfish stings and mushroom ingestions. It’s important for Floridians to know they can contact their poison control center 24 hours a day at 800-222-1222 for free treatment advice from a health care professional.”

Follow these safety tips as the summer kicks into full swing:

Pool chemical safety:

• Ensure you are in a well-ventilated area when using pool chemicals.

• Follow the product instructions carefully.

• Do not store chemicals where flammable items may mix with them (i.e., pool chemicals and fertilizer).

• Never mix pool chemicals because it could create a toxic gas.

• Always keep pool chemicals stored up and away from children.

Snake bites:

• Call the poison control center (or 911, if unarousable, convulsing or stopped breathing) if someone has been bitten by one of the six venomous snakes found in Florida: pygmy rattlesnake, cottonmouth (water moccasin), Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, canebrake (timber) rattlesnake, copperhead or coral snake.

• If bitten by a snake, remove jewelry and tight clothes, immobilize the extremity if possible, keep affected area at or below the heart, and wash the area gently.

• Do not feed the victim, make cuts into the bite area, place ice on the bitten extremity, or apply a tourniquet.
Insect repellent usage:

• Read and follow product instructions carefully; some products are not meant to be applied to the skin.

• Do not apply onto a child’s hands, eyes, mouth or cut/irritated skin; spray repellent onto adult’s hands then apply to child’s face.

• Do not use combination sunscreen/insect repellent products. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours, but repellent should not be reapplied.

• DEET should not be used on children younger than 2 months old.

• After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water.

Additional outdoor hazards:

• At the beach, bring a spray bottle of vinegar in case of jellyfish stings. If you’re stung, call the poison control center for specific treatment advice.

• If bitten by a spider, call the poison control center immediately.

• For common insect stings, including fire ants, bees, wasps and caterpillars, initially apply a baking soda paste. Then call the poison control center for more specific treatment advice.

• Treat all wild mushrooms as poisonous unless you are absolutely certain they are safe to eat.

“Remember to keep your vigilance up for prevention of COVID-19, as well,” said Dr. Sollee. “We continue to see increases in exposures related to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as hand sanitizer, bleaches and disinfectants. Keep kids away from chemicals and remember to not mix cleaning products as it could create a toxic gas.”

The mission of the Florida/USVI Poison Information Center - Jacksonville is to provide exceptional care for individual patients and for supporting public health through information, surveillance, education, and research. Experts staff the Poison Help Hotline at 800-222-1222 that provides free, confidential, expert medical advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year from toxicology specialists, including nurses, pharmacists, physicians and poison information providers.

The Florida/USVI Poison Information Center – Jacksonville is a cooperative effort between the University of Florida College of Medicine, UF Health Jacksonville, the University of Florida Health Science Center – Jacksonville, and the State of Florida, Department of Health, Children’s Medical Services. The Florida/USVI Poison Information Center – Jacksonville is designated as an accredited regional poison control center by the American Association of Poison Control Centers. To learn more, visit, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter (@FloridaPoison).