Reducing Poisonings from Flea & Tick Control Treatments


picture of woman reading label

If you have pets, there's a good chance at some point you may have to deal with an annoying infestation of fleas and ticks.

Before applying pest control products directly to pets or in your home, read and follow the package directions. Many of these products contain strong chemicals that can potentially be harmful.

By following a few simple tips, you can limit your risk of exposure to potentially harmful chemicals and prevent a more serious health issue.

Tips for Using Flea and Tick Control Products

picture of dog getting flea and tick treatment

Fleas are easier to prevent than to get rid of once an infestation has taken hold. Ticks are potentially disease-carrying parasites that attach to pets as well as people. That's why veterinarians recommend regular flea and tick prevention treatment. While it's important to keep these pests off of your animal, care should be taken when dealing with treatments containing potentially harmful pesticides.

  • Read the product label first! Labels contain important information about proper use.
  • Apply only the recommended dose; more can be harmful to you and your pet.
  • If the product gets on your skin, wash immediately. Consider wearing gloves when applying.
  • Do not touch treated pets, carpet or furniture until the product dries.
  • Use the correct product. Some products are for pets, while others are to be used strictly on carpets and furniture. The two types of products should not be used interchangeably.
  • Do not use dog treatments on cats, or cat treatments on dogs.
  • Be certain of your pet's weight and purchase the appropriate treatment.
  • Safely store products away from children and pets.

Flea and Tick Control Outside

If you have a pet that spends time outdoors, it is important to make the environment unwelcoming for pests. The best way to control fleas and ticks is to keep them from contacting your pet or entering your home or areas surrounding your home in the first place. You can do this by removing elements that they need to survive.

  • Clear trees and brush to add more sunlight into the yard and reduce the amount of suitable habitat for deer which carry ticks.
  • Keep the grass mowed, bushes cut short, and remove all leaf litter.
  • Routinely check your pet for fleas and/or ticks and remove them immediately.
  • Keep pets out of heavily wooded areas or tall grass.

Outdoor examples of "hot spots" for fleas are dog houses, flower beds, gardens, and under decks or porches. Any location out of direct sunlight where the pet spends time can become flea infested and a source for re-infection.

Flea Control in the Home

The best way to prevent fleas on pets is to make sure you regularly and thoroughly clean pet resting areas, including pet beds, furniture, carpeting, and vehicles.

  • Regularly vacuum areas where your pet spends any time to remove food, larvae and eggs.
  • Wash fabrics and bedding in hot water and high heat dryer setting.
  • Groom your pet with a flea comb. These combs are made to remove adult fleas, flea dirt, and dried blood from your pet's skin and fur.

Real Stories about Poisonings

A man set off a flea fogger in his apartment. He called the Poison Control Center to report burning eyes and a sore throat.

What Went Wrong: Total release foggers, also called "bug bombs", can pose health and fire hazards if used improperly. The directions provided with the product said to leave the area after the fogger was activated, stay out during treatment time, and ventilate when returning. Follow the tips on this page for indoor and outdoor flea and tick control as a way to avoid an infestation.

A young child vomited and had a seizure after sleeping on a carpeted floor that had been treated with a flea and tick carpet powder.

What Went Wrong: The area had been recently treated. The label provided the important information that children and pets should be kept away from treated areas, especially while powder is still visible on the surface.

A woman used a carpet and upholstery spray on her dog and inhaled the mist. This caused coughing, nausea and an aching head. Another woman used a flea and tick powder intended only for pets on her sweater, her furniture and her carpet. She, too, developed multiple symptoms.

What Went Wrong: They did not read the labels before using the spray or powder. Products are intended for specific purposes. Some are for pets, some for furniture or carpets; others may be for people.

Additional Resources