Poison Hazards to Avoid During and After a Storm

poison hazards

Along with damaging winds and rains, hurricanes also bring the threat of poisonings with them.  Here are some prevention and survival steps that can help you avoid a poisoning or illness after the storm. 


Post-storm poison hazards and how to avoid them

How to avoid food poisoning

  • Keep food on hand that does not need to be refrigerated.
  • Keeping freezer and refrigerator doors closed. A full freezer usually keeps food cold for about 48 hours. Refrigerators will keep food cold for about four hours.
  • Place a thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer to monitor temperatures. If the temperature is 40 degrees or higher, throw food out.
  • Boil water. If water service is hindered and you don’t have bottled water, boiling water will kill most types of disease-causing organisms that could be present, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Utilities will often issue boil water advisories before a storm makes landfall or when the water is possibly contaminated.
  • Remember, when in doubt, throw it out.


How to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning

  • Only using generators outside, more than 20 feet away from your home, doors, and windows.
  • Never using a gas stove, camp stove, or charcoal grill inside. 
  • Make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector, with battery backup, on every level of your home.
  • Carbon monoxide (CO) is called the “silent killer” because it has no color and no distinct odor.  Symptoms of CO poisoning can feel like the flu.  If you are having headaches, dizziness, nausea, weakness, or confusion, get to fresh air, and call the poison control center (1-800-222-1222) or 9-1-1 right away.

How to avoid snake bite poisoning

  • Recognize that snakes will be displaced by flooding.
  • watching where you step when flooding has occurred, even in areas that are not under water.
  • Carry a flashlight at night and at dusk.
  • Don’t try to pick up or kill a snake. It may bite you in the process.
  • The Carolinas Poison Center is available by phone (1-800-222-1222) or chat ( if you think a poisoning has occurred.  Phone lines can sometimes be busy in a storm.  If internet connection is available, chatting with poison control may be a more reliable form of communication.  Don’t forget to keep electronic devices charged and ready for use.