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Tips to prevent poisoning in the home

Around 70 children under 5 are taken to hospital every day with suspected poisoning, according to the Child Accident Prevention Trust. In 1 in 5 cases, the child will have to be admitted to hospital.

Dangers to children can be in medicine cabinets, bathrooms, under kitchen sinks or even in handbags.

Medicines are the most common causes of poisoning in children; household cleaning products also pose a danger.

Many parents mistakenly believe child safety caps will keep prying and inquisitive young fingers out of dangerous containers.

Home safety tips to help prevent child poisoning

  • Install safety locks/ childproof latches on all cabinets to restrict access to children.
  • Store potential poisons including detergents, medications, and chemical products (like pesticides and drain cleaners) out of reach and out of sight of children inside the house as well as in the garage or shed. In addition, it's always best to lock them up. Never underestimate your child's ability to climb.
  • Store potential poisons in their original containers. Do not transfer them to food containers like milk jugs, coffee jars, or soft drink bottles.
  • Keep food and potential poisons separate; store them in different cabinets. Children can mistake the identity of products that look alike to them.
  • Return all products to storage immediately after use. Keep the products and your children in sight during use.
  • Safely discard into a sealed, outdoor bin all household products that are old or aren't used regularly. Prescription and over the counter medicines can be returned to a pharmacy for safe disposal.
  • Never mix products; dangerous fumes could result.
  • Make sure medications are in child-resistant containers. Vitamins and supplements also should be kept out of reach of children. Be especially alert at grandparents’ homes. Older people with hand arthritis may get medication bottles that are not childproof. They're also more likely to leave medicine out in the open.
  • Keep indoor plants out of reach; some may be poisonous.
  • Stay away from areas that have been sprayed recently with pesticides or fertiliser.

Learn the signs of potential poisoning in children

The signs of potential poisoning in children can include:

If someone has been exposed to poison, seek medical advice immediately or call 999. Try to have this information when you call:

  • Victim's condition
  • Name of product consumed and ingredients
  • How much of the product was consumed
  • When the product was consumed
  • Your name and phone number
  • Age of victim
  • Weight of victim

If the victim has swallowed something extremely toxic and fast-acting, you may need to administer first aid right away. To speed up this process, one person should call 999, while another one takes the following precautions:

  • If poison touches the skin, immediately wash the area with soap and warm water for 10 to 30 minutes. If there is blistering, seek medical attention immediately.
  • If a toxic substance gets in the eyes, flush eyes continuously with warm water for 10 minutes.
  • If poison is inhaled, take the victim outside for fresh air.
  • If the victim has stopped breathing or doesn't have a heartbeat, perform CPR and call 999 immediately.
  • If the victim is unconscious or breathing is difficult or laboured, call 999.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on March 31, 2014

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