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Preventing Household Poisonings

Almost all poisonings happen in homes, and more than half involve children younger than age 6.

The following steps can help you prevent a poisoning in your home:

  • Never leave small children alone in a room with cleaning, cosmetic or medical products. A child can quickly and easily pull allergy pills from a purse or drain cleaner from a grocery bag.

  • Keep alcohol and tobacco products out of reach. Both can cause long-term physical damage or death if swallowed by a child.

  • Keep medications, vitamins, and herbal remedies put away. Vitamin pills that contain iron can kill a child. Many medications are mildly to highly toxic. Some, such as heart medication (digitalis), blood thinners (warfarin), chemotherapeutic agents, and others, can kill a child.

  • Be sure you give a child the proper dose of the right medication. Overdosing can cause serious reactions.

  • Remove poisonous plants. Caladium, castor bean plant (one bean can kill a child), elephant's ear, philodendron, mistletoe, holly, and dieffenbachia can cause skin irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion, and other side effects if eaten by children.

  • Check gas-powered appliances regularly for carbon monoxide leaks and make sure you have working carbon monoxide detectors in your home.

Check for hazards

Check these locations in your home for hazardous products. Store the following poisonous products securely:

  • Garage. Antifreeze, windshield cleaner, gasoline, charcoal lighter, pesticides, fertilizers, garden chemicals, fungicides, and flea and pest powder.

  • Bedrooms. Cosmetics, cologne, hair spray, nail polish and remover, mothballs, medications, and vitamins.

  • Bathroom or laundry room. Pine oil, drain and toilet cleaners, bleach, disinfectants, detergents, and aerosol sprays.

  • Kitchen. Insect killer, metal polish, alcohol, dishwashing detergent, and oven cleaner.

  • Home workshop. Solder, lead, cadmium, formaldehyde, solvents, paint, and paint thinner.

Cover your bases

Don't rely on just one poison control measure. For safety's sake:

  • Store harmful products out of sight and reach.

  • Keep products in their original containers. For example: Never store bleach or toxic liquids in milk bottles.

  • Use products only for their intended purposes.

In an emergency

If your child swallows a poison:

  • Don't panic.

  • Call 911 or your local emergency number, or a poison control center: 800-222-1222.

  • Read the label of the ingested product to the medical specialist.

  • Follow the instructions of the medical personnel precisely. Don't make your child throw up. Vomiting can cause further damage if lye, dishwashing detergents, drain cleaners, paint thinners, and certain other substances were swallowed.

Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically-affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Trevino, Heather M., BSN, RNC
Last Review Date: 11/30/2014
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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