Home Safety: Prevent Childhood Poisoning

The How and Why of Childhood PoisoningPoison Help Line

More than half the calls received by most poison centers across the country involve children under the age of six. Usually these poisonings result in mild or no symptoms, but there is potential for severe injury or even death.

Most often, children are poisoned in their own homes. The top four reported reasons why children accidentally poison themselves are:

  1. Poisons are not stored properly. Commonly used products left in the open where they can be seen are the No. 1 reason children get poisoned. Recently used medication bottles left on the counter or table, purses or diaper bags sitting on the floor, opened cleaning products left unattended for “just one second,” can all lead to poisonings.
  2. Children are curious. Children are naturally curious about the taste, smell and texture of products. By swallowing, smelling or spraying a product children learn more about it. It’s how they learn about their world. Brightly colored liquids, spray containers, pills, leafy or flowering plants attract children.
  3. Children think a poison is something other than a poison. Because they look similar, children can think fuels, cough syrup, and shampoo are actually safe to drink, like fruit juice or soft drinks.  Medicine tablets look and taste like candy. Antifreeze tastes sweet. Red mouthwash looks like fruit juice.
  4. Lastly, children imitate the behavior of adults. They copy what their parents or grandparents do, such as taking medication, or drinking colored liquids. Children will check out house cleaning products, spray chemicals, fertilizers, anything that is within their reach.  Parents need to be aware and take good care to keep these items in a safe place. Teach children that poisons can look and smell like something good (and safe), but in reality can be extremely harmful.  Hopefully, by better understanding why childhood poisonings occur, they can be prevented. Adults need to decide what safety measures can be incorporated at home, in hopes of providing a safer environment for kids.

Minnesota Poison Control