Household Safety: Tips to Prevent Poisonings

From fertilizer to antifreeze and medicines to makeup, poisonous items show up throughout our homes. Here are some important ways and safety tips to help prevent kids from ingesting a poisonous substance.

Safety of Medications

  • Don't rely on packaging to protect your kids — child-resistant packaging does not mean childproof packaging.
  • Never prepare or give medication to a child in the dark: You may give the wrong dosage or even the wrong medication.
  • Never leave vitamin bottles, aspirin bottles, or other medications on kitchen tables, countertops, bedside tables, or dresser tops. Small children may decide to try to copy adults and help themselves.
  • Never tell a child that medicine tastes like candy.
  • Store all medications — prescription and nonprescription — out of sight and out of reach of children, preferably in a locked cabinet. Even items that seem harmless, such as mouthwash, can be extremely dangerous if ingested in large quantities by children. Just because cabinets are up high doesn't mean kids can't get their hands on what's in them — they'll climb up (using the toilet and countertops) to get to items in the medicine cabinet.
  • Make sure purses and bags — yours and guests' — that could contain poisonous items such as medications are kept out of the reach of kids at all times.
  • Always keep pills and liquids in their original containers.
  • Try to keep a record of how many pills are left in a prescription container.
  • Be aware of all medications in your home (and in those of relatives if your kids spend a lot of time there).

Cleaning Products and Other Household Chemicals

  • Never put cleaning products in old soda bottles or containers that were once used for food.
  • Never put roach powders or rat poison on the floors of your home.
  • Store household cleaning products and aerosol sprays in a high cabinet far from reach.
  • Don't keep any cleaning supplies, including dishwasher detergent and dishwashing liquids, under the sink.
  • Use safety latches for all cabinets containing hazardous substances.
  • Keep hazardous automotive and gardening products out of reach in a securely locked area (ideally, in your garage, if you have one).
  • When you're cleaning or using household chemicals, never leave the bottles unattended if there's a small child present.

Other Poisonous Items

  • Never leave cosmetics and toiletries within easy reach of children. Be especially cautious with perfume, hair dye, hairspray, nail and shoe polish, and nail polish remover.
  • Keep kids away from houseplants — and plants around your yard — that can be poisonous. Either put plants out of reach or buy only plants that are nonpoisonous. A few examples of toxic houseplants include: rhododendron, English ivy, lily of the valley, and holiday plants such as holly and mistletoe.
  • Discard used button cell batteries (like those in watches) safely, and store any unused ones far from kids' reach (alkaline substances are poisonous).

Be Prepared

  • Keep the following numbers near the phone (for yourself and caregivers):
    • doctor's number
    • parents' work and cell phone numbers
    • neighbor's or nearby relative's number (if you need someone to watch other kids in an emergency)
  • Make a first-aid kit and keep emergency instructions inside.
  • Install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.