Poisoning is one of main causes of injury to babies and young children. This is because there are many poisonous items around the home and young children learn by putting things in their mouth to taste. Crawling babies and young toddlers are most at risk as they are unable to work out the items that may harm them. Read our advice below to help make your home safer!
Did You Know?
- Paracetamol poisoning is the most common way for children to be poisoned. The popular strawberry-flavoured liquid paracetamol that is widely available and in most homes, is liked by most little ones. A young child may try and drink from the bottle if it’s left unattended. Everyday tablets that you might keep in your handbag or bedside cabinet, may appeal to children as they can look like sweets.
- Child-resistant tops and tablets in strip and blister packs help to slow children down but they are not childproof. Some 3-4 year olds can open them in seconds!
- Liquid detergent capsules, dishwasher tabs and concentrated liquids under the kitchen sink are caustic and can cause internal chemical burns, if swallowed. The capsules and tabs come in boxes that aren’t child-resistant. All these items should be stored out of the reach of children and, preferably, locked away.
- Button batteries (lithium) have caused severe injury to several young children when swallowed. When a battery becomes stuck in a child’s throat, it releases caustic soda (a chemical used to unblock drains) which will burn through a child’s organs and blood vessels
- E cigarettes and liquids are also a poison risk to young children. The attractive bottles of liquid nicotine can be mistaken for juice and are easy to open (more information can be found at the bottom of this page)
- Carbon monoxide poisoning – if you have a flame burning appliance or open fire it’s important to get the appliance checked annually and to fit carbon monoxide alarms. (more information can be found at the bottom of this page)
To make the advice quick and easy to access, we will divide the information into age categories.
From around 6 months, babies start to put everything in their mouths – which means they are at risk of swallowing something harmful. The best thing you can do during this stage is to keep poisonous things locked away and out of reach
Fitting child safety catches on low cupboard doors and drawers,helps to prevent young children getting to cleaning products. If you keep pills in your bag, it’s best not to leave it on the floor, as a crawling child will see the bag as another item to play with.
Your toddler will follow and want to imitate you. This is how they learn. This means toddlers are at more risk of poisoning than any other age group. The advice below will help you keep your toddler safe from poisoning.
The information above, still applies for toddlers. Ideally keep harmful products out of reach and locked away. The experts recommend that it’s best to keep harmful products in a room where people are most often around, like a kitchen and avoid storing in bathrooms. If your child climbs onto a chair or worktop, and is exploring cupboards, they are more likely to be seen by an adult or older brother or sister.
Try to take your medicine when your child isn’t watching as they will try to copy exactly what you do. If they can’t see what you do – they won’t know.
Avoid pretending your toddler’s medicine is a sweet, even if it’s hard to get them to take it. It can be confusing for your toddler. Put your child’s medicine away, safely out of reach, after each dose rather than leaving it in the room with the child.
Remember to check out friend’s and family homes too when visiting.People without young children may leave items out that could harm your child. Take a few moments to scan the room for pills, e liquids, button batteries, or cleaning products around the home, so you’re not taken by surprise.
Even small amounts of alcohol can be harmful to small children, so clear up any glasses with alcohol dregs in them.
Remember to be careful with aromatherapy oils, perfumes and cigarettes too as they can all be harmful to small children.
In the garden you may have a shed with products like anti-freeze or weed killers. Its best to keep the shed locked. Discourage toddlers from eating any plants in the garden, as they may be poisonous.
A guide on e-cigs and the dangers they pose to your child can be found at the bottom of this page.
Running free/School Children
Children between 3 to 5 are still at risk from accidental poisoning as they will be more imaginative in their play and have better abilities to find ways into areas you thought were safe. They are much more likely to be able to open child-resistant tops too.
Your child may easily be tempted by colourful medicines that look like sweets. So continue to keep them locked safely away and in the original bottles, even between doses.
Always do the same with cleaning products, DIY or garden chemicals, whether they are kept in the house or the garden shed.
Plants in the garden can be attractive too. You can explain to your child not to eat anything they pick outside until they have checked with an adult. Poisonous berries, and mushrooms growing in a damp corner, can easily look like the ones they eat in their meals
E-cigarettes and the risks to young children
There is growing evidence that the liquid nicotine refills from e-cigarettes pose a significant poisoning risk to young children.
Hospitals are reporting growing numbers of children accidentally swallowing liquid nicotine from e-cigarette refills. Nicotine is a highly toxic substance, through ingestion, inhalation or skin contact – especially for young children. Ingestion of only a tiny amount can be fatal.
A bulletin circulated to GPs and pharmacists in Northern Ireland in January 2016 stated less than 2mls can be fatal for an adult, and warns that it is very likely to be even less than this for a child.
While no deaths have yet been reported in the UK, a 2 year old girl from Israel was fatally poisoned after she swallowed an e-cigarette refill. The bulletin recommends that health practitioners warn people using e-cigarettes to: “keep nicotine-containing products away from children, especially very young children and toddlers, who are more susceptible to nicotine poisoning.”
Always remember to secure these liquid refills away from your child’s reach. Just like the advice about not taking tablets in front of your child, don’t refill your e-cigarette in front of your child – thus, revealing the location of where you keep your refills.
You can’t see, smell or taste it but if carbon monoxide creeps out from a flame burning appliance it can kill children in seconds.
Always make sure that you have an audible carbon monoxide alarm fitted in your home – ideally one in every room with a fuel-burning appliance.