NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Poison Look-Alikes

Poison Look-Alikes


                We often think of poisoning as something that happens to small children.  According to the Centers for Disease control and Prevention, every day more than 300 children ages 0-19 are treated at a hospital for poisoning. But it is also easy for adults to mix up medications or mistake one product for another.

                Poison look-alikes are potentially harmful substances that be easily mistaken for safe ones – usually they look the same or have very similar packaging.  Often they are items that we use every day for cleaning, self-care or first aid, but if they are used incorrectly or mistaken for something else, they can harm us.

                Mix-ups happen often; it is easy to put eardrops into your eyes by mistake, or to grab the tube of first-aid cream instead of the tube of toothpaste.  Mistakes like these can cause problems ranging from temporary discomfort, severe illness, permanent injury or even death.

                There are so many different products on the market today and manufacturers don’t make it easy for use to tell them apart.  It is interesting to discover how many look-alike products we can find.




Potential Look-Alike

Gummy Candy

Gummy Vitamins

Parmesan Cheese


Chewing Gum

Nicotine Gum

Colored Sports Drinks

Colored Cleaning Liquids

Chocolate Bar

Chocolate Flavored Laxative

Cinnamon Candies

Cold or Sinus Tablets




                The risks of mistaken identity can be deadly. For example the currently popular detergent packets that look similar to colored peppermint candy are more toxic than ingesting older, powdered versions as the packets deliver a whole cup of detergent. In 2012, more than 6,200 children ages 5 and under were exposed to laundry detergent packets, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. A taste or a lick of the detergent will not make you seriously sick, but ingesting the whole packet could cause difficulty breathing, vomiting, loss of consciousness, throat swelling, drowsiness and death.

                To prevent poisonings, whatever your age:


                - Store food separately from household cleaners, medicines and beauty aids so these items are not mistaken for the wrong product.

                - Keep potential poisons out fo children’s reach and sight. Look around your home and move potential poisons to safe and secure locations.

                - Teach children about poison look-alikes.

                - Store products in their original containers.

                - Download the free Poison Center Help app to have instant access to the Poison Control Center on your Smartphone.

                - Visit www.Poisonisbad.com for more info, ringtones, wallpaper and social media links.

-              When babysitting, be aware. Ask where chemicals are stored and remember that poison look-alikes could be anywhere.

                - Take medications in a well-lit area. Use glasses or a magnifier to help read labels and instructions.

                - Put the Poison Control Center number in your mobile phone’s contact list: 1-800-222-1222.

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