Preventing Poisoning in Young Children

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Preventing Poisoning in Young Children

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If you have a possible poisoning emergency, call 911 or your local provincial Poison Control Centre immediately.

Many of the items in our homes can be poisonous to children—household cleaners, medicines, cosmetics, garden products, and houseplants. If these items are not kept out of reach, your child could swallow, inhale, or eat these toxic substances or get them on his or her skin.

Young children have the highest risk of poisoning because of their natural curiosity. Products that are poisonous to children can also harm pets.

Use the following tips to keep dangerous products or items away from children.

Preventing poisoning

  • Choose the least hazardous product available for the job.
  • Use the smallest amount of product necessary in the lowest-risk form.
  • Never leave a poisonous product unattended, even for a moment. Many poisonings occur when an adult becomes distracted by the doorbell, a telephone, or some other interruption.
  • Keep household plants out of reach. Many are poisonous if they are chewed or ingested.
  • Use childproof latches on your cupboards. And be careful of what you store in your bedside table and other cupboards that are lower than your shoulder height.
  • Keep products in their original labelled containers. Never store poisonous products in food containers.
  • Use "Mr. Yuk" stickers and teach your children to recognize them. These stickers are available from your local poison control centre or hospital.
  • Post the phone number to the poison control centre or emergency room in several places throughout the house.
  • Purchase items that are in child-resistant containers.
  • Choose multi-use products to cut down on the number of different chemicals around your house.
  • Read product labels for caution statements, how to use the product correctly, and first aid instructions. Common poisonous substances include:
    • Cosmetics, nail care products, and perfumes.
    • Arts and crafts products, such as glue.
    • Bleach, dishwater detergent, drain and toilet bowl cleaners, furniture polish, and other cleaning products.
    • Windshield washer fluid and antifreeze.
    • Turpentine products, kerosene, lye, lighter fluid, and paint thinners and solvents.
    • Garden products, especially products that kill insects, pests, or weeds.
    • Batteries and mothballs.
  • Don't buy toys or jewellery that contain lead.

House and garden poisons

  • Keep products completely out of the reach and sight of children. Do not keep poisons, such as drain opener, detergent, oven cleaner, or plant food, under your kitchen sink.
  • Look for words that signal the level of poison danger in pesticide products. The word "Caution" on a pesticide label means the product is slightly toxic. The word "Warning" means the product is moderately toxic. And the word "Danger" means the product is highly toxic.1 For more information, go to Health Canada's Pesticides and Pest Management website at www.hc-sc.gc.ca/cps-spc/pest/index-eng.php.
  • Use only nontoxic arts and crafts materials.
  • Check your home for lead paint chips if your home was built before 1978.
  • Don't forget your garage when poison-proofing your home. Keep poisons and flammables out of reach of children. For example, kerosene, lamp oil, gasoline, and fertilizers are all poisonous when ingested. Many products kept in garages also are fire hazards.

Alcohol and medicines

  • Keep alcohol, medicines (including vitamins), tobacco products, and dietary supplements out of the sight and reach of children. ASA is a common source of childhood poisoning, especially flavoured "baby" ASA. And children sometimes eat cigarettes.
  • Do not take medicines in front of your young child. Children like to mimic adult actions. They may eat something inappropriate in an attempt to be like you.
  • Educate your child about the effects of alcohol and medicines.
  • Never call medicines "candy."
  • Keep medicines in their original labelled containers.
  • Buy over-the-counter medicines that have child-resistant packages.
  • Check the expiration dates on medicines. Mix old medicines into coffee grounds or cat litter and put them in the trash. Don't flush them down the toilet.

Chemicals and fumes

  • Never mix chemicals.
  • Keep cleaners or chemicals in their original containers.
  • Only use chemicals in well-ventilated areas.

Other Places To Get Help

Organizations

Canadian Paediatric Society
2305 Saint Laurent Boulevard
Ottawa, ON  K1G 4J8
Phone: (613) 526-9397
Fax: (613) 526-3332
Email: info@cps.ca
Web Address: www.cps.ca
 

The Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) promotes quality health care for Canadian children and establishes guidelines for paediatric care. The organization offers educational materials on a variety of topics, including information on immunizations, pregnancy, safety issues, and teen health.


Safe Kids Canada
180 Dundas Street West
Toronto, ON  M5G 1Z8
Phone: (416) 813-6766
1-888-723-3847
Fax: (416) 813-4986
Email: safekids.web@sickkids.ca
Web Address: http://www.safekidscanada.ca
 

Safe Kids Canada is a national injury prevention program provided by the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. The Web site provides information on keeping children safe and preventing injuries.


References

Citations

  1. National Pesticide Information Center (accessed November 2008). Signal words. Available online: http://www.npic.orst.edu/factsheets/signalwords.pdf.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
Last Revised February 3, 2011

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.