Keeping children safe from poisonous substances

Children under five have the highest risk of accidental poisoning if the correct procedures aren’t followed and promoted in and around the home. Putting a few simple measures in place can stop this happening to your child.

There are many different types of poison. These can be swallowed, absorbed through the skin, injected, inhaled or splashed into the eye. It’s vital that parents and educators follow substance safety procedures and ensure children’s safety and preventing accidental poisoning.

Potential poisons in the home environment 

Although, one of the most common type of poisoning is unsupervised medication, there are other potential poisons which include:

• cosmetic items, such as nail polish

• some types of plants and fungi

• household chemicals and pesticides

• carbon monoxide

• poorly prepared or cooked food, and food that's gone mouldy or been contaminated with bacteria from raw meat (food poisoning)

• alcohol, if an excessive amount is consumed over a short period of time (alcohol poisoning)

• recreational drugs or substances

• medicines prescribed for pets

Steps to take in order to reduce the risk of a child poisoning 

There are several things a parents or carer can do to reduce a child's risk of poisoning such as:

• ensuring medication or any poisonous substances are locked away, out of the sight and reach of your children

• make sure all medicines, cleaning products, chemicals and potentially harmful cosmetics, such as nail varnish, are locked away out of the sight and out of reach of children

• don't store medicines, cleaning products or chemicals near food

• keep all chemicals in their original containers and with clear labels

• don't leave old medicines lying around – take them to your local pharmacist to dispose of safely

• keep cigarettes and tobacco out of the reach of children and don't smoke in front of children

• small button batteries can be easily swallowed, therefor make sure to keep them out of the reach of children

• whenever possible, buy medicines that come in child-resistant containers

• don't take or give medicines in the dark, to avoid taking an incorrect dosage

• tablets for the dishwasher or washing machine - out of sight and in cupboards with child-resistant catches

• keep all chemicals like paint, white spirit, oil, anti-freeze, weed killers and pesticides high up, out of reach and out of sight

• fit a padlock to the cupboard, shed or garage where they are kept

• keep all chemicals in their original, labelled containers – do not put them into another bottle or container

• protect your children from carbon-monoxide poisoning by fitting and regularly check carbon monoxide alarms where there is a flame-burning appliance

• make sure you keep ventilation outlets in your home free from blockages

• have your flame-burning appliances regularly serviced by a qualified engineer

You can make a difference through good safety practice!