Safe Use, Safe Home: Child Poisoning Prevention

Every year the Poison Control Center reports more than 2 million poisonings across the country, with more than 90% of these occurring in the home. Children under the age of 6 are the majority of non-fatal poisonings. Many products are immediately obvious as poison risks, however where these poisons are hiding may be less obvious and many household items are seemingly harmless such as spices or household plants.

"I seem to have lost my phone number. Can I have yours?" Ok, cheesy pickup lines aside, take out your cellphone right now, open your contacts, and add the number for the Poison Control Center 1-800-222-1222. Add them to your favorites for easy access in case of an emergency. The PCC also encourages calls if you have a question – no question is too paranoid. This article will provide ways to avoid poisoning, however nothing is impossible so it is important to know when to call and what to know. Call 911 immediately if your child loses consciousness, is not breathing, or beings to have seizures. If your child is conscious and breathing you can call the Poison Help line (now conveniently located in your phone!). DO NOT attempt to induce vomiting with the use of products such as ipecac or charcoal until you have spoken with a medical professional.

    When you call here is what you should know:

    • Victim’s age and weight
    • Container or bottle of the substance if available
    • Time of exposure
    • Address where poisoning has occurred


    For every room in the house, it is ideal to have potential hazards stored up, away, and out of sight of children. However, if high storage is not an option cabinets should be secured with child-resistant locks. Remember there is no such thing as a child-proof lock or container. They are designed to keep children out long enough for an adult to intervene. To avoid potential confusion and allow you to give information to medical professionals in case of an emergency, always keep substances in their original containers. Follow these tips for a safer home:


    • Follow the 4 steps of food safety: clean, separate, cook, and chill to avoid food poisoning.
    • Spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, and bay leaves can be poisonous in larger quantities. Read your labels!
    • Don’t put detergents in the dishwasher until you are ready to close and start the cycle.


    • Always store cleaners in locked cabinets or up and away from children’s sight/reach.
    • Never mix household cleaners or chemicals, this can create dangerous gases: Click here for 6 common cleaning products you should never mix.
    • Re-close medicines if interrupted while taking them, do not leave your next dose on the counter.
    • Most pillboxes are not child-resistant, so make sure they are stored safely.
    • Never call medicine "candy" to get children to take it, this sends the wrong message.
    • Medicine should not be left on a child’s bedside for later use.
    • If you can, avoid taking medicine in front of children.
    • Always re-read instructions for use and proper disposal of medicine. Do not flush medicine down the drain. Click here for FDA disposal information.
    • Other hazards to be aware of are toothpaste, mouthwash, and makeup such as mascara and foundation.


    • Single-load laundry packets look like candy or teething toys, so store them out of children’s sight/reach and always close the container after each use.
    • Laundry product labels contain first aid information that is highly valuable in an emergency, so keep products in original container.
    • Do not use laundry containers to store other materials as chemicals could react negatively.
    • Do not combine laundry detergents with other cleaning products.
    • Always wash your hands after using laundry products.

    Carbon Monoxide:

    • Install CO alarms in the hallway near bedrooms/sleeping areas.
    • Install on all levels of the house, including attics, basements, and attached garages.
    • Carbon Monoxide mixes with air and therefore does not rise in the same way smoke does. For this reason CO sensors are normally installed at knee level, however with little ones around chest level is suggested.

    Other hazards:

    • Be aware of indoor/outdoor plants that may be toxic if ingested such as azaleas, hydrangea, wisteria, and caladium.
    • Avoid using surface or crystalized fertilizer.
    • Besides being a choking hazard, cell batteries can also release hydroxide in as little as two hours. These can be found in remotes, keys, gaming controls, and small electronics.
    • Your purse can hold a large amount of these potential hazards in a small place such as medicine, makeup, personal products, and cell batteries

    Share with us! Were there products on this list that you weren't aware of as being poisonous? Did we miss anything that you think parents should be aware of? Comment below!

    Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in {March, 2016} and has been updated for freshness and accuracy.