Prevention of Poisoning

Poisoning is a common cause for childhood injury, especially in children under the age of 6 years. To help prevent poisoning, parents and caregivers should supervise young children at all times, should make sure to keep all poisonous substances out of the reach of children, and should post the Poison Control Center telephone number (1.800.222.1222 in the United States) near all telephones and program the number into all cell phones.

The following section includes important information about how to reduce the risk for poisoning in children.

To reduce the risk for poisoning involving medicines:

  • Keep all medications (including over-the-counter drugs, dietary supplements, and herbal remedies) out of the reach of children.
  • Store all medicines in their original containers.
  • Do not carry medicines in your purse or coat pocket, where it may be found by a young child.
  • Remember that child resistant packaging and other safety devices are not child proof. Supervise young children at all times and do not leave medicines out unattended.
  • Never take medicine in front of a young child.
  • Read all instructions before administering medication to a child. Before your child's physician prescribes a new medication, make sure he or she knows about all over-the-counter and prescription drugs the child is taking.
  • Never give a child medicine intended for another person.
  • Never refer to medicine as "candy."
  • Never administer medicine to a child in the dark. (Overdosing is possible.)
  • Dispose of all unneeded or outdated medicines as directed.

To reduce the risk for accidental poisoning involving household products, cleaning agents, and other chemicals:

  • Store all products in their original containers, out of the reach of children.
  • Do not store or use household products near food.
  • Follow all instructions when using household products. Never mix cleaning agents or chemicals together.
  • Make sure the area is well-ventilated when using chemicals.
  • When you are using a household product, never leave the product in a child's reach–even for a short time (e.g., to answer the phone).
  • Do not spray chemicals (including pesticides) when children are in the area.
  • Teach children never to smell a container to identify what is inside.

To reduce the risk for other types of poisoning in children:

  • Remove all lead paint from your home (if you have children under the age of 6).
  • Make sure your heating unit is working properly and install a carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home.
  • Follow safe handling recommendations for all foods.
  • Identify toxic plants in your home or yard and remove them.
  • Make sure your child's caregivers (e.g., grandparents, day care) follow all guidelines for preventing poisoning in children.
  • Talk to older children about the dangers of using illegal drugs (including inhaled substances).
  • Contact a qualified health care provider if you suspect your child may suffer from depression or severe anxiety.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 27 Aug 2008

Last Modified: 01 Oct 2015