Protect Your Child…Prevent Poisoning

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Children Can Get Very Sick if They Are Poisoned, and Children Aged 1 to 3 Years Are at Highest Risk

Young children may put anything in their mouths. This is part of learning. Many household products can be poisonous if swallowed, if in contact with the skin or eyes, or if inhaled.

Common Examples

  • MEDICINES: Vitamins with iron, cough and cold medicine, allergy and asthma medicine, and pain and fever medicine

  • HOUSEHOLD PRODUCTS: Cleaning products, mothballs, furniture polish, drain cleaners, weed killers, insect or rat poisons, lye, paint thinners, laundry or dishwasher detergent, antifreeze, windshield washer fluid, gasoline, kerosene, and lamp oil

Safety Rules

  • Keep harmful products locked up and out of your child’s sight and reach.

  • Use safety latches or locks on drawers and cabinets where you keep dangerous items.

  • Take extra care during stressful times and when you are away from home.

  • Call medicine by its correct name. You do not want to confuse the child by calling medicine “candy.”

  • Always replace the safety caps immediately after use.

  • Never leave alcohol within a child’s reach.

  • Seek help if your child swallows a substance that is not food. Call the Poison Help Line at 1-800-222-1222 or your doctor. Do not make your child vomit.

  • Keep the following telephone numbers by your phone:

    POISON HELP: 1-800-222-1222

    DOCTOR: ______________________________

    EMERGENCY (usually 911): ____________

  • Keep products in their original containers. Never put nonfood products in food or drink containers.

  • Read labels with care before using any product.

  • Teach children not to drink or eat anything unless it is given by an adult.

  • Do not take medicine in front of small children. Children tend to copy adult behavior.

  • Check your home often for old medications and get rid of them by disposing of them properly. Many communities have a locked drop box for old or unneeded medications. You can search for a drop box at https://apps2.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/pubdispsearch. If no drop box is available in your area, mix medications with something unappealing like old coffee grounds or kitty litter, seal it in a plastic bag, and put it in the trash. Only flush medications if you have no other choice.

  • Get rid of substances used for old-fashioned treatments such as oil of wintergreen, boric acid, ammoniated mercury, oil of turpentine, and camphorated oil.

  • There is more of a danger of poisoning when you are away from home, especially at a grandparent’s home. Check carefully for dangerous substances that may be within reach in the house or in purses.

Patient education handouts from TIPP—The Injury Prevention Program help pediatricians implement injury prevention counseling for parents of children newborn through 12 years of age.

The information in this publication should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

© 2020 American Academy of Pediatrics. All rights reserved.