If you have a possible poisoning emergency, call 911 or your local provincial Poison Control Centre immediately.
Many of the items in our homes can be poisonous to children—household cleaners, medicines, cosmetics, garden products, and houseplants. If these items are not kept out of reach, your child could swallow, inhale, or eat these toxic substances or get them on his or her skin.
Young children have the highest risk of poisoning because of their natural curiosity. Products that are poisonous to children can also harm pets.
Use the following tips to keep dangerous products or items away from children.
- Choose the least hazardous product available for the job.
- Use the lowest-risk form and the smallest amount of product needed.
- Never leave a poisonous product unattended, even for a moment. Many poisonings occur when an adult becomes distracted by the doorbell, a telephone, or some other interruption.
- Keep household plants out of reach. Many are poisonous if they are chewed or ingested.
- Use childproof latches on your cupboards. And be careful of what you store in your bedside table and other cupboards that are lower than your shoulder height.
- Keep products in their original labelled containers. Never store poisonous products in food containers.
- Post the phone number to the poison control centre in several places throughout the house.
- Purchase items that are in child-resistant containers.
- Choose multi-use products to cut down on the number of different chemicals around your house.
- Read product labels for caution statements, how to use the product correctly, and first aid instructions. Common poisonous substances include:
- Cosmetics, nail care products, and perfumes.
- Arts and crafts products, such as glue.
- Bleach, dishwater detergent, detergent pods, drain and toilet bowl cleaners, furniture polish, and other cleaning products.
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Windshield washer fluid and antifreeze.
- Turpentine products, kerosene, lye, lighter fluid, and paint thinners and solvents.
- Garden products, especially products that kill insects, pests, or weeds.
- Batteries and mothballs.
- Reduce your child's exposure to lead in your home, drinking water, foods and other items. For more information, see the topic Lead Poisoning.
House and garden poisons
- Keep products completely out of the reach and sight of children. Do not keep poisons, such as drain opener, detergent, oven cleaner, or plant food, under your kitchen sink.
- Look for words that signal the level of poison danger in pesticide products. The word "Caution" on a pesticide label means the product is slightly toxic. The word "Warning" means the product is moderately toxic. And the word "Danger" means the product is highly toxic. Visit the Government of Canada's webpage on pesticides and pest management at www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/consumer-product-safety/pesticides-pest-management.html for more information.
- Use only non-toxic arts and crafts materials.
- Check your home for lead paint chips if your home was built before 1976.
- Don't forget your garage when poison-proofing your home. Keep poisons and flammables out of reach of children. For example, kerosene, lamp oil, gasoline, and fertilizers are all poisonous when ingested. Many products kept in garages also are fire hazards.
Alcohol and medicines
- Keep alcohol, medicines (including vitamins), and natural health products out of the sight and reach of children. Aspirin is a common source of childhood poisoning, especially flavoured "baby" aspirin.
- Keep cannabis (marijuana) that you can eat (edible), and all cannabis products, out of the sight and reach of children. Edible cannabis is a source of childhood poisoning. Some products may look like a harmless snack or candy to your child.
- Keep children away from tobacco products and e-cigarette cartridges. They contain nicotine. If a child eats nicotine, he or she can get very ill or die.
- Do not take medicines in front of your young child. Children like to mimic adult actions. They may eat something inappropriate in an attempt to be like you.
- Educate your child about the effects of alcohol and medicines.
- Never call medicines "candy."
- Keep medicines in their original labelled containers.
- Buy over-the-counter medicines that have child-resistant packages.
- Check the expiration dates on medicines. Do not put medicines in the garbage or flush them down the toilet or sink. Talk to your pharmacist about the best way to safely get rid of medicines.
Chemicals and fumes
- Never mix chemicals.
- Keep cleaners or chemicals in their original containers.
- Only use chemicals in well-ventilated areas.
Other Works Consulted
- Wang G, et al. (2014). Poisoning. In WW Hay Jr et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics, 22nd ed., pp. 357–386. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Current as of: May 27, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
John Pope MD - Pediatrics
Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Thomas Emmett Francoeur MD MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics