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.
Translated information about poisoning and keeping children safe is available on the Kid Safe SA website.
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 poisoning 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.
Disposing of poisons safely
To find out how to safely dispose of poisons:
check the label on the container
unused medicines should be returned to your pharmacist
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For more information
For further information on poisoning prevention contact SA Health’s Controlled Substances Licensing on (08) 8226 7100.
You can search through to find related information.
Things you can do to prevent poisoning in and around the home infographic
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