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Household Safety: Preventing Poisoning
Lots of things around the house can be poisonous if used in the wrong way or found by kids. By knowing the risks you can help keep kids safe.
- Store all medicines — prescription and nonprescription — in a cabinet using a safety latch. Kids can climb up using the toilet and countertops to get to items placed up high, so locking the cabinet is key.
- Make sure purses and bags — yours and guests' — that could contain medicines are kept out of the reach of kids at all times.
- Always keep medicines in their original containers.
- Be aware of all medicines in your home and how many pills are left in the containers.
- If your kids spend a lot of time at a relative's, know what medicines are there and help to get them out of your child's reach.
- Don't assume your child can't open a medicine package or container. Child-resistant packaging does not mean childproof packaging.
- Never prepare or give medicine to a child in the dark. You could give the wrong dosage or even the wrong medicine.
- Never tell a child that medicine tastes like candy.
- If your older child or teen manages their own medicines, make sure they know and follow the family rules on safely storing the medicine. And always supervise them and make sure they're taking the proper doses.
Cleaning Products and Other Household Chemicals
- Store household cleaning products and aerosol sprays in a high cabinet far from reach.
- Use safety latches for all cabinets containing cleaning or other chemicals.
- Keep cleaning products in their original bottles. Don't put cleaning products in old soda bottles or containers that were used for food.
- When you're cleaning or using household chemicals, keep a close watch on the bottles or buckets if kids are around.
- Never put roach powders or rat poison on the floors of your home. Do not use insect sprays on furniture or mattresses.
- Keep laundry and dishwasher supplies out of sight and in a locked cabinet.
- Laundry and dishwasher pods are more dangerous than other detergent types. If you have children under 6 years old, consider using liquid or powder instead.
- Keep car supplies (antifreeze, windshield washer fluid) and gardening products (fertilizer, bug repellent) out of reach in a securely locked area (in your garage, if you have one). Make sure they're stored according to package instructions.
- Don't leave alcoholic drinks where kids can reach them. Take special care during parties and keep an eye on guests' drinks too. Clean up promptly after the party so kids don't find drinks left behind.
- Keep bottles of alcohol in a locked cabinet far from kids' reach.
- Some products around the house have alcohol and need to be kept away from kids:
- food extracts, such as vanilla and almond
- hand sanitizer
- perfume and cologne
- To avoid lead paint, only use cribs, bassinets, highchairs, painted toys, or toy chests made after 1978.
- If you have an older home, have the paint tested for lead. For more information, call the National Lead Information Center at (800) 424-LEAD (5323).
- Keep up on toys recalled for using lead paint. You can sign up to get emails about recalls on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website.
- Keep cosmetics and toiletries away from children. Be especially careful with perfume, hair dye, hairspray, nail polish, shoe polish, and nail polish remover.
- Know the names of the plants in your house and yard. Put plants out of reach when possible. Remind kids not to eat plants they find inside or outside and keep an eye on them.
- Keep kids away from seasonal plants too. Some holiday houseplants (like lilies, poinsettia, holly, and mistletoe) are toxic.
- Throw away used button batteries (like those in watches) safely, and store any unused ones far from kids' reach.
If you're expecting a baby or already have a child, it's a good idea to:
- Childproof your home. Get down on your hands and knees in every room of your home for a kid's-eye view. Remove or lock away items that could be dangerous.
- Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the age-appropriate Heimlich maneuver so you are ready in case of emergency.
- Keep these numbers near the phone (for yourself and caregivers):
- poison-control center number: 1-800-222-1222
- your child's doctor's number
- parents' work and cellphone numbers
- neighbor's or nearby relative's number (if you need someone to watch other kids in an emergency)
Even with these precautions in place, kids still can get hurt and accidents do happen. But being prepared will help you to act quickly and confidently in the event of an emergency.
Reviewed by: Melanie L. Pitone, MD
Date reviewed: January 2020