Poisoning prevention in the home
Can your child reach paracetamol, button batteries, dishwasher tablets, hand sanitisers? If yes they can reach 4 of the most common and dangerous causes of child poisoning.
Did you know that almost any substance could be poisonous if the dose or exposure level is high enough? That’s right, even substances labelled ‘natural’ or ‘eco-friendly’, or those that are good for you in small doses, can be as dangerous as other poisons.
If you would like to find out what poisons may be stored in your house, have a look at the 'Things you can do to prevent poisoning in and around the home' infographic that lists common poisons in each room of the house, and keep reading below to find out how to make your home safer.
Who and when to call for help
In an emergency phone 000 for an ambulance – if a victim has collapsed, stopped breathing, is having a fit or having an anaphylactic reaction.
For first aid advice phone the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26.
Don’t induce vomiting or give the victim anything to drink (for example Syrup of Ipecac) unless advised by the Poisons Information Centre or other medical professional.
Getting help quickly
Have information ready for the emergency responder or Poisons Information Centre, like the:
- medicine or poison label/container
- victim’s name and age.
Make the Poisons Information Centre phone number (13 11 26) clearly visible on your home phone and store it in your mobile phone. Fridge magnets are available by contacting SA Health's Controlled Substances Licencing Team.
Simple things to prevent poisonings
There are simple things you can do to prevent poisonings.
- keep medicines and poisons out of the reach of children - remember children are great climbers
- keep medicines and poisons in their original containers with the labels attached – never decant them into other containers
- close lids tightly immediately after use – remember ‘child-resistant’ does not mean ‘child-proof’
- never leave medicines or poisons unattended, and keep children away when using them- children often copy what they see
- Check around your home for medicines and poisons you don't need and safely dispose of them
Common household poisons
Common household poisons include:
- medicines (for people and animals), supplements and remedies which include paracetamol, ibuprofen, iron tablets, contraceptive pills, anti-depressants, cough and cold medicines, chest rubs and vaporiser fluids
- personal hygiene products and cosmetics which include hand sanitiser, mouthwash, shampoo, perfume and nail polish remover
- cleaning products which include dishwashing and laundry liquid, dishwasher powders and tablets, bleach, oven cleaner, eucalyptus oil and shower cleaner
- paints and solvents which include methylated spirits and turpentine
- pesticides which include flea collars, fly spray, animal worming tablets, insecticides, herbicides, mothballs and snail, rodent and cockroach baits
- garden and auto products which include fertiliser, petrol, diesel, oil and radiator fluid
- poisonous plants, insects and reptiles
- toys and other items which include button batteries, glow sticks and bubble-blowing solution.
Who is most at risk?
While we are all at risk of poisoning, children under the age of five are at the highest risk and about half of the calls to the Poisons Information Centre are about children. Poisoning can occur due to swallowing a substance, breathing it in, or being splashed on the skin or in the eyes.
Children have a higher risk of poisoning than adults because they can’t read or understand warning labels, and they weigh less, so a smaller dose will be more dangerous.
Children can be clever; give them the chance and they will find their way into any ‘child-resistant’ package. That is why most poisonsing occur when poisons are not stored safely or when your family routine changes.
‘Child-resistant’ does not mean ‘child-proof’
Tips to prevent poisoning
Make your home safer and prevent nasty accidents with these poisoning prevention tips:
- always read the label and follow all instructions, directions, warnings and safety precautions
- keep medicines and poisons in their original containers and store in locked cupboards and on shelves that are at least 1.5 metres from the floor
- don’t store or use poisons near food
- return medicines and poisons to their safe storage area as soon as you have finished using them
- never leave medicines and poisons unattended while children are at your home
- store poisons that need refrigeration (for example, some medicines) in a small and lockable container
- don’t refer to medicines as ‘lollies’
- keep children, pets and toys away from the area where you are using poisons as children often copy what they see others doing
- only prepare the amount of poison you need for the job
- have adequate ventilation when using oven cleaners, bleach and shower cleaners
- make sure all pest baits (including mothballs) are enclosed in tamper-resistant stations and place them out of sight and reach of children and pets
- store poisons away from ignition sources, areas prone to flooding or water damage, and other poisons that may be incompatible (for example flammable and caustic liquids).
- if there is a safer alternative to the poison you are currently using – substitute for safer products wherever possible
- if you do not need all of the poisons you are keeping around your home – dispose of them safely.
Remember - ‘natural’ or ‘eco-friendly’ products can be poisons too.
To find out how to safely dispose of poisons:
- check the label on the container
- unused medicines should be returned to your pharmacist
- contact Zero Waste SA
- contact your local council
- see the ChemClear or drumMUSTER websites for information on disposing of farm chemicals and containers.
For further information on poisoning prevention contact SA Health’s Controlled Substances Licensing on (08) 8226 7100
The following resources are available for downloading, simply click on the chosen image for a PDF version.
Magnets are available by contacting SA Health’s Controlled Substances Licensing team on HealthControlledSubstances@sa.gov.au