Poison-Proof Your Home: A Guide to Keeping Your Family Safe from Poisons

How to keep your family safe from poisons

Poison warning

Your home contains many items that can poison a child. You may not think that cleaners, medicines, plants, and alcohol can be poisonous. But they can be very dangerous, even deadly, especially to children.

Poisonous products are often stored in places children can reach. Very young children are especially vulnerable to being poisoned. This is because they explore their world with their mouths. Young children do not know which items are safe to eat. It only takes a few seconds for a child to swallow a dangerous amount of poisonous product.

What to do if someone is poisoned

Be very careful not to taste, touch, or breathe in the poison yourself. If your child is unconscious, shaking and convulsing, or having trouble breathing or swallowing, call 9-1-1 immediately.

For swallowed poisons

If your child is awake:

For breathed in poisons

If your child is awake:

  • take him outside or into fresh air
  • call your local Poison Centre

For poisons in the eye

  • Rinse the eye with lukewarm water for 15 minutes
  • Call your local Poison Centre

For poisons on the skin

  • Rinse the skin with lukewarm water for 15 minutes
  • Take off any clothing touched by the poison
  • Call your local Poison Centre

The most common types of poisons in the home

Pain medicines

These medicines can be liquids or pills. Example of pain medicines include:

Household cleaners

These include bleach, dishwasher detergents, window cleaners, and oven cleaners.

Other prescription and non-prescription medicines

These medicines include sleeping pills, blood pressure medicines, medicines for anxiety and depression, vitamins, and allergy pills.

Cosmetics and personal care products

These products include lotions, perfumes, nail polish remover, toothpaste, mouthwash, and deodorants.

Plants

Houseplants, garden plants, flowers, and parts of vegetables can be poisonous. Berries can also be poisonous.

Cough and cold medicines

These medicines can be liquids or pills.

Alcohol

Alcoholic drinks, such as beer, wine and liquor, as well as rubbing alcohol, can be poisonous to your child.

Gasoline and other car products

These items, such as car oil, antifreeze, lock de-icer, and windshield washer fluid, are often kept in the garage or basement.

Dangerous products inside the home

Medicine

All medicines can be dangerous to your child if the wrong amount or type is swallowed. This includes prescription and non-prescription medicines, herbal remedies, and vitamins.

How to take and give medicine safely

Before you leave your doctor’s office or pharmacy, make sure you learn how to give or take the medicine. Be sure to ask the following questions:

  1. What is the right amount of medicine to be given or taken?
  2. How many times a day should this medicine be given or taken?
  3. When should this medicine be given or taken?
  4. For how many days should this medicine be given or taken?

Other tips on safely taking and giving medicines:

  • Do not take your medicine in front of your children. They may try to copy you.
  • Do not call medicine ‘candy’. Do not make a game out of giving medicine to your child.
  • Read the label carefully before you take medicine yourself or give medicine to your child.
  • Medicine should be given by the same person each time so that double dosing does not happen. Double dosing is when someone gets two doses of the same medicine.
  • Do not take or give medicine in the dark.
  • Do not give your child or yourself someone else’s medicine.
  • Be extra careful when your usual household routine is changed (e.g. during holidays, when visiting other people’s homes, or when moving). During these times, it is easy for a parent to become distracted and for a child to get into a poison.

How to store medicine safely

  • Ask your pharmacist to put all your prescription and non-prescription medicines in containers with child resistant caps. Remember that many children can open child resistant caps.
  • Buy only the smallest amount of medicine that you need.
  • Store all medicines out of your child's reach in a locked cabinet or toolbox.
  • Keep track of how many pills are in a bottle. You can do this by putting a piece of masking tape on the side of the bottle. Write on the masking tape how many pills are in the bottle. Each time you take a pill from the bottle, subtract it from the total number of pills.
  • For medicines that need to be stored in the fridge, keep them inside a plastic container. Put this container at the back of the fridge so your child cannot easily see or reach it.
  • Always leave medicines in their original container.
  • Do not mix different medicines, vitamins, or other tablets in the same container.
  • If you keep medicines in a purse or diaper bag, store them out of your child's reach. Remember, your child can get into a purse or diaper bag quite easily.
  • Lock medicines away after each use.

How to throw away medicine

Remove the following items from your medicine cabinet:

  • medicines that have expired, including pills, liquids, or creams
  • medicine that is not the right colour, or looks old
  • crumbling pills
  • unused portions of prescription medicines
  • bottles or containers that do not have a label on them

Take old or leftover medicines to your pharmacist. The pharmacist will dispose of the medicines safely. Do not throw your medicines away in the garbage. Do not pour them down the sink or flush them down the toilet.

Watch for other dangerous products in the home

Cleaning products

  • If you are using a cleaning product and are called away by the phone or doorbell, bring the cleaning product with you. Do not leave it where your child can get into it.
  • Do not mix cleaning products together. They can create poisonous fumes that may harm you or your child if they are breathed in.

Paint

If you are painting or spraying chemicals such as insecticides or oven cleaners in your home, make sure you are getting enough fresh air in the room. Open your windows and doors.

Lead

Some older Canadian homes may have paint inside or outside the house that contains lead. Lead paint can poison your child if he swallows peeling or loose paint, or breathes in paint dust during renovations. 

For more information about lead:

  1. Lead in Older Homes, Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation website.
    www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/maho/yohoyohe/inaiqu/inaiqu_007.cfm
  2. Effects of Lead on Human Health, Heath Canada website.
    www.hc-sc.gc.ca/iyh-vsv/environ/lead-plomb_e.html

Plants

  • Some of your house and garden plants may be poisonous
  • Make sure you learn the names of all your plants and know which ones are poisonous
  • Move poisonous plants to places children cannot reach them
  • Keep the tag that comes with new plants to help you remember their names

Alcohol and cigarettes

After a party, don’t forget to empty all ashtrays and pour all unfinished alcoholic drinks down the drain.

How to store dangerous products

  • Do not store food, medicines, and cleaning products in the same place. Store them in separate areas.
  • Store all cleaning products out of your child's reach, or install safety latches on your cupboards
  • Keep all your cleaning products in the same containers they came in
  • Store personal care products, such as nail polish remover, mouthwash, toothpaste, and lotions, in a locked cupboard
  • Store dangerous products, such as paint, windshield washer fluid, antifreeze, and car oil, in locked cabinets. Check areas in your home, such as the garage, attic, laundry room, and basement, for these products.

How to throw away paint and other chemicals

Do not pour unused paint or other chemicals down the drain. Call your local Public Works Department to find out how to dispose of unused paint.

Dangerous products outside of the home

Pesticides

All pesticides, including insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides, can be poisonous. Buy only as much as you need. Carefully follow the instructions on the label so you know how to safely use, store, and dispose of the product.

How to use pesticides safely

  • Make sure you wear protective clothing, such as rubber gloves, rubber boots, and goggles
  • Do not smoke, eat, or drink when using pesticides
  • Do not use these products near children
  • Do not walk on grass that has been recently sprayed with chemicals

How to store pesticides safely

Store pesticides out of your child's reach in a locked box or cabinet.

How to throw away pesticides

  • Do not reuse empty pesticide containers
  • Do not pour insecticides or pesticides down the drain. Do not bury them. They can be very dangerous to the environment. Call your local Public Works Department or Hazardous Waste Depot to ask how to throw away unused pesticides.

Look for these warning symbols

These symbols or pictures are put on the labels of products that are dangerous. You will find them on the labels of many different products that you use in your home. The symbol shows a picture inside a frame. The picture tells you the type of danger.

Be sure to read the labels of all your household products. Learn what each of these symbols mean:

 
 
 

Poison

This symbol means the product could make you or your child very sick or even die if it is swallowed or licked. Some products with this symbol can cause you or your child harm if they are breathed in.

 
 
 

Flammable

This symbol means the product can catch fire easily. Keep this product away from heat, flames, and sparks.

 
 
 

Corrosive

This symbol means the product can burn skin or the eyes. If it is swallowed, it will also burn the throat and stomach.

 
 
 

Explosive

This symbol means the product container will explode if it is heated or punctured. If this happens, metal or plastic can fly out of the container.

 

Safe Home Checklist

Use this guide to check your home for poisonous products. Be sure to use and store them safely.

Kitchen

  • Cleaners
  • Vitamins
  • Medicines

Bathrooms

  • Cleaners
  • Cosmetics
  • Lotions
  • Vitamins
  • Medicines
  • Shampoo

Bedrooms

  • Cosmetics
  • Lotions
  • Perfumes
  • Medicines

Living areas

  • Plants
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Flaking paint

Purse

  • Medicines
  • Cosmetics
  • Lotions

Garage

  • Antifreeze
  • Gasoline
  • Pesticides
  • Paint
  • Lock de-icer
  • Windshield washer fluid

Storage areas and closets

  • Other chemicals
  • Mothballs
  • Paint

Outdoors

  • Plants and mushrooms
  • Insecticides
  • Herbicides
  • Fungicides
  • Fertilizers

Key points

  • Your home contains many items that can poison a child.
  • Very young children are especially vulnerable to being poisoned. This is because they explore their world with their mouths.
  • All medicines can be dangerous to your child if the wrong amount or type is swallowed. Before you leave your doctor’s office or pharmacy, make sure you learn how to properly give or take the medicine.
  • Do not store food, medicines, and cleaning products in the same place. Store them in separate areas.
  • Do not pour unused paint or other chemicals down the drain. Call your local Public Works Department to find out how to dispose of unused paint.
3/29/2011

Prepared by The Ontario Poison Centre, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario.





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