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Preventing Poisoning in Young Children

Overview

Many of the items in our homes can be poisonous to children. Examples are household cleaners, medicines, cosmetics, garden products, and houseplants. If these items aren't kept out of reach, your child could swallow, breathe in, or eat these toxins or get them on their skin.

Young children have the highest risk of poisoning because of their natural curiosity.

If you have a possible poisoning emergency, call 1-800-222-1222. Your call will be routed to the closest poison control center. If the person is unconscious, not breathing, or having a seizure, call 911.

Common items to watch for

Here are some common items found at home that can cause poisoning.

  • Prescription and over-the-counter medicines
  • Cosmetics, nail care products, and perfumes
  • Arts and crafts products, such as glue
  • Bleach, dishwasher detergent, detergent pods, drain and toilet bowl cleaners, furniture polish, and other cleaning products
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Windshield washer fluid and antifreeze
  • Turpentine products, kerosene, lye, lighter fluid, and paint thinners and solvents
  • Garden products, especially products that kill insects, pests, or weeds
  • Batteries and mothballs
  • Edible marijuana and vape products

How can you help prevent poisoning in children?

Use the following tips to keep dangerous products or items away from children. (Products that are poisonous to children can also harm pets.)

  • Choose the least hazardous product available for the job.

    Use the lowest-risk form and the smallest amount of product needed.

  • Never leave a poisonous product unattended, even for a moment.

    Many poisonings occur when an adult becomes distracted by the doorbell, a telephone, or some other interruption.

  • Keep household plants out of reach.

    Many are poisonous if they are chewed or ingested.

  • Use childproof latches on your cupboards.

    And be careful of what you store in your bedside table and other cupboards that are lower than your shoulder height.

  • Keep products in their original labeled containers.

    Never store poisonous products in food containers.

  • Post emergency phone numbers.

    Have the phone numbers to the poison control center or emergency room in several places throughout the house.

  • Purchase items that are in child-resistant containers.
  • Read product labels for caution statements and first aid instructions.

    This will help you know how to use the product correctly.

  • Reduce your child's exposure to lead.

    Lead can sometimes be found in drinking water, foods, and other items in your home.

House and garden poisons

Use the following tips to keep dangerous house and garden products away from children.

  • Keep products completely out of the reach and sight of children.

    Do not keep poisons, such as drain opener, detergent, oven cleaner, or plant food, under your kitchen sink.

  • Use only nontoxic arts and crafts materials.
  • Check your home for lead paint chips if your home was built before 1978.
  • Don't forget your garage when poison-proofing your home.

    Keep poisons and flammables out of reach of children. For example, kerosene, lamp oil, gasoline, and fertilizers are all poisonous when ingested. Many products kept in garages also are fire hazards.

  • Keep dangerous chemicals and fumes away from children.
    • Never mix chemicals.
    • Keep cleaners or chemicals in their original containers.
    • Only use chemicals in well-ventilated areas.

Alcohol and medicines

Use the following tips to keep alcohol and medicines away from children.

  • Keep alcohol and medicines out of sight and reach.

    This includes vitamins and dietary supplements. Aspirin is a common source of childhood poisoning, especially flavored "baby" aspirin.

  • Keep marijuana out of sight and reach.

    All marijuana products, including marijuana that you can eat (edible), are a source of childhood poisoning. Some products may look like a harmless snack or candy to your child.

  • Keep children away from tobacco products and vaping (e-cigarette) liquids.

    They contain nicotine. If a child swallows nicotine, they can get very ill or die.

  • Do not take medicines in front of your young child.

    Children like to mimic adult actions. They may eat something inappropriate in an attempt to be like you.

  • Educate your child about the effects of alcohol and medicines.
  • Never call medicines "candy."
  • Keep medicines in their original labeled containers.
  • Buy over-the-counter medicines that have child-resistant packages.
  • Dispose of expired medicine safely.

Credits

Current as of: October 24, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

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