Emergency Care For You

Poison: How To Protect Your Child

A child is accidentally poisoned every 30 seconds, and more than half of these poisonings occur at home to children under age 5.

It's important to remember that young children need to be closely supervised at all times.

Young children can be poisoned by:

  • Medications
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Cleaning products
  • Cosmetics
  • Pesticides
  • Paints and solvents

"Children naturally explore by tasting things in their mouths" said Dr. Richard O'Brien of the American College of Emergency Physicians. "In the time it takes to answer a phone or go to a door, a child can find and swallow poison, if it's not locked away. Adults must pay even closer attention when their child visits a home that may not be childproofed."

Here are some tips from the American College of Emergency Physician to help prevent accidental poisoning:

  • Keep all substances that may be dangerous to your child locked away and out of your child's reach. Use child-resistant packaging, and always replace safety caps after use.
  • Never call medicine candy.
  • Do not store harmful products with food or in food containers, which could be confusing to a child.
  • Keep a small bottle of Syrup of Ipecac on hand — out of children' reach, but use only if directed by a physician or a Poison Control Center.
  • Before using pesticides, remove children and toys for recommended times (read label).

"Signs that indicate poison has been swallowed include severe throat pain, breathing difficulty, unexplained nausea and vomiting, and burns on the lips or mouth," said Dr. O'Brien. "A child also may appear drowsy or sluggish, and a foreign substance may remain around his or her mouth and teeth. You also may be able to smell the substance on the child's breath."

If you suspect your child has ingested poison, get emergency help right away. Call 911 or your local Poison Control Center. Be prepared to give the facts, including any information and first-aid instructions from product labels. If you go to the emergency department, take the poison with you (e.g., chemical container, medication bottle, plant part). To obtain the phone number of the Poison Control Center nearest you, refer to the emergency numbers in the front pages of your telephone directory.

Download a free flier on what to keep in a Home First Aid Kit.