Childproof Your Home for Poisons

Young children are curious and like to put things in their mouth. Ordinary products used by adults each day around the home can become dangerous poisons in the hands of a child. The National Safety Council estimates that almost half of the poisonings that happen each year are in children younger than 6 years old. Poisoning has become the leading cause of accidental death. More people die from poisoning than from motor vehicle accidents.

Common childhood poisonings at home

Poisoning can happen with:

  • Products stored in old bottles and cans instead of in their original containers

  • Products taken out of their normal storage place and left where children can reach them

  • Products stored in unlocked cabinets and drawers where children can reach them

  • Products that can be seen by children

  • Safety packaging that isn't used or child-resistant closures that aren't put back on after opening

Tips to help reduce accidental poisonings at home

  • Post the poison control center phone number where you can easily see it. Or program it into your phone. The universal phone number in the U.S. is 800-222-1222. Calls are routed to your local poison control center.

  • Teach your child about poisons at an early age. Explain that the same safety rules apply when they visit a friend's home.

  • Buy and store all medicine, vitamins, and household products in child-resistant packaging. Remember that child-resistant doesn't mean childproof.

  • Store medicines, vitamins, iron supplements, household cleaners, detergent pods, toiletries, paints, varnishes, thinners, pesticides, and fertilizers in a locked cabinet. Make sure they are in their original, labeled containers. Use safety latches for drawers and cabinet doors.

  • Never store nonfood products in food or drink containers, even when relabeled. Children may not be able to read the label.

  • Throw out any expired medicines. Follow the directions that came with the medicines for how to throw them away. If there are no directions, most medicines can be taken out of their original container and thrown in the trash. Or you can take them to a medicine take-back program in your community. Ask your pharmacist if you aren't sure how to dispose of a medicine.

  • Never give a child an alcoholic drink—not even in small amounts. Store alcoholic drinks out of your child's reach. Alcohol is poisonous to children.

  • Keep tobacco products, matches, lighters, and ashtrays out of your child's reach.

  • Know your household and outdoor plants by name. Keep poisonous plants away from your child.

  • Crawl through your rooms and put yourself at eye level, checking every place your children may go on their hands and knees. Be sure to correctly throw away anything that could be harmful.

  • Don't take medicine in front of your child. Children like to imitate adults. Don't tell your child that medicine is candy to get your child to take it.

  • Read labels thoroughly every time you give medicine. Many kids are accidentally poisoned when given the wrong medicine or the wrong dose. Mistakes often occur in the middle of the night. Always turn on a light when giving medicine.

  • Read labels on all products you buy before you buy or use them. Buy products that are the least poisonous ones for the job.

  • Be careful when visiting others, staying in hotels, or having visitors in your home. Purses and suitcases are tempting objects for children to explore.

  • When answering the phone or the door, take poisonous products that you're using with you. Don't make them available to your child for even a moment.

  • Be careful with items that contain small button batteries. These include remote controls, greeting cards, musical children's books, toys, and key fobs. The batteries can cause injury if a child swallows them.

Online Medical Reviewer: Dan Brennan MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Liora C Adler MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Tara Novick BSN MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2023
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.