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Poison Proofing your Home

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 1, 2023.

What is poison proofing?

Poison proofing means making your home a safe place for your child. A poison is any substance that causes an injury, illness, or death. Poisons may be swallowed, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin or eyes. Take steps to prevent your child from coming in contact with poisons in or around your home. Keep a list of numbers for the poison control center, healthcare providers, and the nearest hospital in case of an emergency. These should be posted in a place that can be seen easily.

Why is it important to poison proof my home?

Children are curious about their surroundings. Very young children often put things they find in their mouths, even if it does not taste good. Children can also be poisoned by things they touch or breathe in around the home. Examples include swallowing a substance that causes a burn injury or accidental poisoning from medicines.

What can poison my child?

  • Cleaning substances include soaps, cleaning solutions, and dishwashing liquid. Chemicals that cause burns are drain cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, and oven cleaners. Other chemical poisons found in the home include bleach, furniture polish, and lighter fluid.
  • Chemicals include pesticides to kill insects, fungus, weeds, or rodents. These also include gasoline, windshield washer solutions, antifreeze, and paint thinner.
  • Medicines , vitamins, and supplements can be harmful to children. Over-the-counter medicines can also cause harm. Examples are heat rubs, decongestants, and medicines to treat diarrhea or constipation. Your child may also find illegal drugs and swallow them.
  • Food items include alcohol and flavoring or essential oils, such as oil of wintergreen.
  • Personal care products include items such as rubbing alcohol, hair products, baby oil, and mouthwash.
  • Plants may contain harmful chemicals that can be dangerous for children.
  • Items that contain heavy metals include lead in utensils or dinnerware. Certain toys, paint, cosmetics, and ink on labels may also contain lead. Mercury may be found in thermometers, batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, and thermostats.

What are the risks of poisoning?

Some poisons can cause long-term, severe, or life-threatening harm. Pesticides can increase your child's risk for cancer or asthma. Your child may have frequent infections. Poisoning may cause brain, blood, or kidney damage. Your child may have problems concentrating or get easily distracted. Some poisons can keep your child from growing and learning normally.

What should I do if I think my child has been poisoned?

Move your child to a safe place away from the poison and do the following:

  • Seek care immediately or call 911 if your child has fainted or is not breathing. Rinse your child's eyes or skin for 15 to 20 minutes if your child is awake and alert. Make your child spit out anything that is still in his or her mouth. Keep the container so you can tell poison control or show the healthcare provider. Do not try to make your child vomit until you contact a poison control expert.
  • Call the poison control center. The number is (800) 222-1222 . Call even if you are not sure your child has been poisoned. They can tell you if you need to seek treatment and what changes to watch for in your child.

How can I prevent poisoning from household chemicals?

  • Label harmful chemicals. Read the label and directions before you use these items.
  • Leave harmful chemicals in their original containers.
  • Keep harmful substances where children cannot get to them. Use childproof locks on cabinets where these items are stored.
  • Keep children away from chemicals that give off fumes when you use them. Use these chemicals in a place that is well ventilated and away from heat sources.
  • Do not store large amounts of chemicals or cleaning products.

How can I prevent poisoning from medicines?

Child-resistant containers are not childproof. Your child may still be able to open these containers.

  • Keep medicines in their original child-resistant containers or blister packs.
  • Keep medicines out of the sight and reach of children. Store and lock up medicines. Keep children out of purses and backpacks.
  • Check the dosage each time you give your child medicine. Turn on the light so you can read the label.
  • Do not take medicine in front of children. Do not refer to medicine as candy.
  • Clean out your medicine cabinet regularly. Ask how to safely dispose of medicine you do not use or that is expired.
  • Remind visitors to keep their medicines safely secured when your child is present.

How do I clean up spilled poisons safely?

  • Remove and replace items that contain heavy metals, such as mercury and lead.
  • Contact your local public health department for more information on how to clean and dispose of poisons properly.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • Your child has chest pain or shortness of breath.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child has tremors or muscle twitching.
  • Your child loses consciousness.
  • Your child has a seizure.
  • Your child has severe abdominal pain.
  • Your child is drooling or vomiting.
  • You know or think someone has been poisoned.

When should I call my child's doctor?

  • Your child is more tired than usual and has a poor appetite.
  • Your child has a hard time learning.
  • Your child suddenly becomes agitated, restless, or does not sleep well.
  • Your child has a rash or burning, itching, or tingling skin.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.