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Desert Winter Hazards


As the temperature drops, the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center sees an increase in calls about the following potential poisons. Be aware of the dangers so you can protect yourself and your loved ones. 


Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a gas produced when any fuel is burned. Some furnaces, engines, motors, space heaters, and fireplaces are capable of leaking carbon monoxide into the air we breathe. Inhaling CO starves the body of oxygen. Symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, nausea, confusion, dizziness, drowsiness, coma or death. Winter is a great time to have your home heating system inspected and cleaned by a professional. Be careful not to operate fuel-burning appliances in enclosed, unventilated rooms. Running the car to warm up the engine in a garage is also dangerous. Portable generators should be placed outdoors away from vents and windows as indicated in the instructions. CO is odorless, tasteless, and invisible. It is the silent killer. Protect your family by installing a CO detector in your home.  



Most automotive antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, a toxic substance that is attractive to children and pets because it has a sweet taste. When filling your car with antifreeze, clean up any spills right away. If there is any product left in the bottle, keep it in the original container with a safety cap and store it in a locked cabinet. Empty cans should be rinsed clean with water and throw away with safety caps in place. If there is any suspicion that even a small amount of these products may have been swallowed call the poison center immediately at 1-800-222-1222. 


Cold and Flu Medicines

Be careful when using prescription or over-the-counter cold and flu medicine. Read the label and follow the dosing directions accordingly. Some people wrongly assume that twice as much medicine will give twice the relief of symptoms. In fact, taking more than the recommended amount of medicine can cause dangerous side effects. Also beware of accidental overdosing! Many cold and flu products contain a combination of active ingredients, such as decongestants, antihistamines, cough suppressants, and pain relievers. Read the labels: you may be taking the same ingredient more than once if you take more than one medicine. Never tell a child that medicine is candy, and keep all medicines locked up out of sight and reach. 


Wild Berries

Many plants develop berries in the fall as a means of reproduction. If you see birds or other wildlife eating berries, remmeber that doesn't mean they are safe for people to eat. Children are especially attracted to the bright colors, and may not understand the difference between wild berries and store-bought or garden-grown fruits. Learn the name of every plant growing in or around your home, and never eat berries unless they have been identified as safe by an expert. Teacher children not to eat anything they find growing outdoors unless a trusted adult says it is safe. 


Originally posted: Mar 6, 2017
Last updated: Jan 5, 2021