Is Rat Bait Dangerous to Humans? 6 Tips to Keep Your Family Safe

Ben Kissam
Written by Ben Kissam
Updated February 24, 2022
Rat in temple
Photo: Alexander W Helin / Getty Images

Safety is paramount when using rat baits

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Using rat baits that contain poison is a common form of pest control that can rid your home of unwanted critters. However, the compounds in rat poison can cause serious health problems if consumed by humans. But can it kill you? 

Educating yourself before laying out rat baits—especially if you have small children or pets at home—is essential. Learn six safety tips for using rat poison and how it might affect adults, children, and pets if ingested.

Warning: This guide is meant to be informational. If you or a loved one has already ingested rat poison, even in small quantities, you should stop reading this article and call the National Poison Control Hotline at 800-222-1222.

Can Rat Poison Kill Humans?

Technically, yes, rat poison can kill humans. However, while you shouldn’t ingest any amount of rat poison no matter how small, it will generally not kill healthy adults unless you consume an excessive amount. However, everyone reacts differently to the substances in rat poison, and you should call a doctor, 911, or poison control if any amount is ingested.

The most likely recourse will be moderate to severe symptoms that affect your cardiovascular system. Therefore, any steps you take for pest control for mice or rats should be considered carefully. 

The cost of a rat exterminator for a rodent problem that’s out of control or unsafe for your health can easily be justified, especially when you consider the side effects. The average cost for rodent extermination is $100 to $600, but varies depending on where you live.

How Much Rat Poison Is Dangerous to Humans?

There is no hard and fast rule for how much rat poison is necessary to kill humans, as factors like body weight, age, and genetics all play a role. That said, small children and those living with cardiovascular or liver issues could be seriously harmed by ingesting even small amounts.

Most premade rat traps that contain poison have roughly 50 milligrams per trap. A small child (under 30 pounds) may only need to ingest only 1.5 milligrams to get seriously sick. It is believed that 10,000 U.S. children and adults are endangered by rat poison each year.

Rat Poison Symptoms in Humans

  • Bleeding from the nose and gums

  • Blood in urine and stool

  • Low blood pressure

  • Large and/or unexplainable bruises on the body

  • Chest tightness

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Painful coughing caused by fluid buildup in the lungs (pulmonary edema)

Remember, if you or a loved one has ingested rat poison, you should immediately call the National Poison Hotline at 800-222-1222.

How Rat Poison Works

Rat poison, also known as rodenticide, contains anticoagulant chemicals that cause internal bleeding inside of rats and mice. It can take up to five days to start working, but eventually, the rat’s body will be unable to form blood clots and will die from it.

Each brand of rat poison may contain different chemicals or compounds, however. 

For example: 

  • Zinc phosphide: produces lethal gas in the body and increases calcium levels to a toxic level.

  • Bromethalin: damages the nervous system by causing swelling and stopping the production of energy, leading to paralysis and death.

These chemicals are no joke, so you may consider more natural options, such as boric acid or essential oils for pest control, if your rat or mice problem isn’t severe and you’re seeking a more humane method for extraction.

6 Rat Poison Safety Tips

It’s important to remember you’re working with potentially harmful chemicals when handling rat poison. As such, you’ll want to take some safety precautions.

To use rat poison safely, you should: 

  1. Read instructions before opening bait traps or pest control poison kits.

  2. Carefully remove bait traps for packaging.

  3. Place bait stations somewhere children and pets cannot reach them.

  4. Check the traps every 4 to 8 hours.

  5. In the event that a rat or mouse is in the trap, wear gloves to remove and carefully dispose of your trap.

  6. Carefully clean any areas where you placed bait traps.

Unfortunately, rodents are very smart critters that can enter your home in a number of ways. They may enter through holes in the wall, through the roof, and after gnawing through wood or insulation. Heck, rats can even enter through the toilet. Still, avoid placing traps out in the open or in close proximity to one another.

Humane Alternatives for Rat Removal

Whether you’re dealing with rats or mice, it’s safe to say you don’t want them in your home. But using poison to remove them could pose risks to children and family pets. In addition, outdoor traps can kill birds and wildlife too. Luckily, you have options. 

  • Trap and release: Get a trap and release any rats/mice you catch into a less-populated spot. (Just make sure it’s not barren so they can find food and water and won’t need to return.) 

  • Use dryer sheets: Rats supposedly hate fragrance, so it’s recommended to place fragranced dryer sheets wherever the issue is.

  • Try a homemade mixture: Mix salad oil, horseradish, garlic, and cayenne pepper, and let it sit for several days. Strain, and then pour into a spray bottle. Spray the mixture anywhere you’ve seen the rats to help ward them off for good. 

Hiring a Local Pest Control Specialist

Rat poison should always be used with extreme caution. A local pest exterminator will have experience working with these chemicals and can give you specific advice for your situation and for the layout of your home.

When it comes to chemicals that can affect your family’s health, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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