Preventing Household Poisonings

Almost all poisonings happen in homes. Every day, children are treated in emergency rooms for poisonings.

The following steps can help you prevent a poisoning in your home:

  • Never leave small children alone in a room with cleaning, cosmetic, laundry, or medical products. All medicine safety tops aren't completely childproof. Some laundry or detergent packets or pods look like candy to young children. So keep them out of sight and reach from children.

  • Keep alcohol and tobacco products out of sight and reach. Both can cause physical damage if swallowed by a child.

  • Keep medicines, vitamins, and herbal remedies out of the reach of children. Many medicines are mildly to highly poisonous. Some medicines can kill a child. These include heart medicine, pain medicine, sedatives, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and seizure medicine.

  • Be sure you give a child the right dose of the right medicine. The dosage is usually based on the age or weight of the child. Giving too much (overdosing) can cause serious problems. Never give adult medicines to your child unless the dose and the medicine are prescribed by your child's provider.

  • Remove any poisonous plants from your home. These include pothos, caladium, castor bean plant, elephant's ear, philodendron, mistletoe, holly, and dieffenbachia. These plants can cause skin irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion, and other more serious side effects if a child eats them.

  • Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden death. It is found in fumes produced by vehicle engines, furnaces, stoves, lanterns, gas ranges, or by burning charcoal and wood. Make sure you have battery-powered or battery-backup carbon monoxide detectors in your home. Change or check the batteries in your carbon monoxide detectors every 6 months.

Check for hazards

Check these places in your home for dangerous products. Make sure these products are stored away from children:

  • Garage. Antifreeze, windshield cleaner, gasoline, charcoal lighter, pesticides, fertilizers, garden chemicals, fungicides, and flea and pest powder

  • Bedrooms. Cosmetics, cologne, hair spray, nail polish and remover, mothballs, medicines, and vitamins

  • Bathrooms and laundry room. Drain and toilet cleaners, bleach, disinfectants, detergents, laundry pods, and aerosol sprays

  • Kitchen. Button batteries, insect killer, metal polish, alcohol, detergents, and oven cleaner

  • Home workshop. Solder, lead, cadmium, formaldehyde, solvents, paint, and paint thinner

  • Pool. Chlorine, shock, pH balancers, and algaecide

Cover your bases

Don't rely on just 1 poison control measure. To be safe:

  • Store harmful products out of sight and reach.

  • Keep products in their original containers. For instance, never store bleach or other toxic liquids in milk bottles. Don't keep antifreeze in clear sports drink bottles.

  • Use products only for their intended purposes.

  • In an age-appropriate way, teach your child to leave all household products alone.

In an emergency

If your child swallows a poison:

  • Act fast! Staying calm will help you make good decisions.

  • Call 911, your local emergency number, or a poison control center at 800-222-1222.

  • Read the label of the swallowed product to Poison Control or a healthcare provider.

  • Follow the instructions of the healthcare provider exactly. Don't make your child throw up unless instructed otherwise by Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 or a healthcare provider. Vomiting can cause further damage. This is especially true if the child has swallowed lye, detergents, drain cleaners, or paint thinners.

Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Tara Novick BSN MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2023
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.