News Release

July 6, 2005

Contact: Jane Shaskan, 860-679-4777

Stings and Other Unwelcome Things

Poison Prevention Tips to Avoid Summer’s Hazards

FARMINGTON, CONN. – It’s the season for bug bites, poison ivy, poisonous mushrooms, and toxic materials related to gardening and pool maintenance. Is it a land mine of potential problems every time you venture outdoors?

“There are risks, but nothing people can’t handle with just a few simple precautions and staying alert to what’s around us,” said toxicologist Bernard Sangalli, administrative director of the Connecticut Poison Control Center at UConn Health Center. “We all take simple steps each day to stay safe and healthy, and as the seasons change so can the risks. Being aware of poisoning hazards helps prevent poisoning accidents,” he said.
So whether you’re swimming, gardening, barbecuing, dining outdoors or just lounging on the chaise, the following information and helpful hints from the poison center will help you and your family enjoy these lazy days of summer.

  • Multiple insect bites can be dangerous. Fragrances and bright-colored clothing attract bugs so are best avoided for outdoor activities. Insect repellents should be sprayed away from food. Adults should spray repellent on their hands and then apply to children’s faces. Children are likely to put their fingers in their mouths so it’s best they not apply their own repellent. Wash off the repellent when you come indoors.
  • Food normally stored in the refrigerator should be kept cold when picnicking. Be sure there’s plenty of ice in the cooler. Serve the food in a shaded area if possible, and don’t let the food sit out too long. What’s too long? That depends on the food and the outdoor temperature. Use good judgment. If there is any doubt about spoilage, throw it out. Food poisoning is a serious danger in the summer months.
  • Wash all fresh fruits and vegetable before eating, including those with skins that are cut away before eating, such as melons, since bacteria can get into the fruit’s flesh when slicing.
  • Be aware of what’s growing around areas where young children are playing. Cases of poison ivy can be severe enough to require medical attention. A good rule to go by: leaves of three, let it be.
  • Only experts can tell poisonous mushrooms from safe ones. Stay away from wild mushrooms. With some, eating even a few bites can cause fatal liver damage.
  • Inhaling chlorine products can irritate the respiratory system. Homeowners who have swimming pools should store pool chemicals in a safe and secure place, out of children’s reach.
  • Insecticides and pesticides can cause serious injury. Keep them well out of the reach of youngsters and always put them away after use. A locked area is best.
  • Keep a sober eye on your bar drink. Alcohol consumption by a young child can be fatal.
  • When visiting the homes of friends and relatives, check to be sure that they too are aware of potential poisoning hazards. Keep a special eye on youngsters in an unfamiliar environment.

Even with the best care and safeguards, accidents do happen. If you suspect a poisoning, don’t wait to see what happens, call the 24-hour emergency hotline at 1-800-222-1222 immediately. “Never hesitate to call us because you think you might be overreacting,” said Mr. Sangalli. “We are always very happy when we can say, ‘Everything’s fine. There’s no need to worry.’”

Call this number, 860-679-3531, to leave a message requesting informational brochures on poison prevention strategies.

The University of Connecticut Health Center is the state’s only publicly supported academic health center. It is composed of three main units: the School of Medicine, the School of Dental Medicine, and the UConn Health System. Founded in 1961, the Health Center pursues a mission of providing outstanding health care education in an environment of exemplary patient care, research and public service.

UConn Health includes the schools of medicine and dental medicine, the UConn Medical Group, University Dentists, and John Dempsey Hospital. Home to Bioscience Connecticut, UConn Health pursues a mission of providing outstanding health care education in an environment of exemplary patient care, research and public service. More information about UConn Health is available at

Note: News professionals are invited to visit the UConn Health Today news page ( for regularly updated news and feature stories, photos and media stories. News releases are archived at UConn Health news and information is also available on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.