Preventing Household Poisonings

Almost all poisonings happen in homes. Every day, children are treated in emergency departments 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 are not completely child-proof. Some laundry or detergent packets or podslook like candy to young children. So keep them out of reach and out of sight from children.

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

  • Keep medicines, vitamins, and herbal remedies put away. Many medicines are mildly to highly poisonous. Some medicines can kill a child. These include heart medicine, pain medicine, sedatives, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and medicines to treat seizures. 

  • Be sure you give a child the right dose of the right medicine. Overdosing can cause serious reactions.

  • Learn the name of and remove any poisonous plants in your home. These include caladium, castor bean plant, elephant's ear, philodendron, mistletoe, holly, and dieffenbachia. These plans can cause skin irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion, and other side effects if a child eats them.

  • Check gas-powered appliances regularly for carbon monoxide leaks. Make sure you have working carbon monoxide detectors in your home.

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

  • Bathroom or laundry room. Drain and toilet cleaners, bleach, disinfectants, detergents,-laundry pods, and aerosol sprays

  • Kitchen. Insect killer, metal polish, alcohol, detergents, and oven cleaner

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

Cover your bases

Don't rely on just one poison control measure. For safety's sake:

  • Store harmful products out of sight and reach.

  • Keep products in their original containers. For example, never store bleach or toxic liquids in milk bottles.

  • Use products only for their intended purposes.

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 or vomit unless instructed otherwise by Poison Control at 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: Daphne Pierce-Smith RN MSN CCRC

Date Last Reviewed: 5/1/2019

© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.