Preventing Household Poisonings

Almost all poisonings happen in homes. More than half of home poisonings involve children younger than age 6.

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. A child can quickly and easily pull allergy pills from a purse or a drain cleaner from a grocery bag. Laundry pods contain strong detergent. They also look like candy to young children. Keep detergent pods out of reach and out of sight.

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

  • Keep medicines, vitamins, and herbal remedies put away. Vitamin pills that contain iron can kill a child. Many medicines are mildly to highly poisonous. Some medicines can kill a child. These include heart medicine, blood thinners, and chemotherapy medicines.

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

  • Remove poisonous plants. 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, medications, and vitamins.

  • Bathroom or laundry room: Pine oil, drain and toilet cleaners, bleach, disinfectants, detergents, detergent pods, and aerosol sprays.

  • Kitchen: Insect killer, metal polish, alcohol, dishwashing detergent, 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:

  • Stay calm. This will let you make good decisions. It will also show your child that you are in control of the situation and that things will be OK.

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

  • Read the label of the swallowed product to the healthcare provider.

  • Follow the instructions of the healthcare provider exactly. Don't make your child throw up. Vomiting can cause further damage. This is especially true if the child has swallowed lye, dishwashing detergents, drain cleaners, or paint thinners. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Fraser, Marianne, MSN, RN

Date Last Reviewed: 11/1/2016

© 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.