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The Ten Most Common Poisons Among Kids

For parents, keeping our kids safe is a constant top priority. But even with the best intentions it's possible to overlook some potentially harmful household poisons. According to the National Academy of Poison Control Centers, 92 percent of all poison exposures occur in the home, and 52 percent of poison exposures occur in children under the age of 6.

92 percent of all poison exposures occur in the home. Keep your children safe by learning the 10 most common poisons in your home.

Following is a list of the most common poisons among children. Take note of them and make sure these items are securely out of your child's reach.

1. Cosmetics and Personal Care Products

Cosmetics contain many chemicals, some of which are even toxic to adults, but because children are smaller, and their metabolic rates are faster, a small amount of chemical or toxin can cause a serious reaction.

Most poisonings occur when children are not being watched closely, such as when parents are busy making dinner or entertaining friends. Keep all cosmetics and personal care products in cabinets that children cannot reach or are locked with child-proof closures.

This includes everything from shampoo, shaving cream and toothpaste (the fluoride in a tube of toothpaste can be detrimental if swallowed by small children) to mascara, lipsticks and perfumes. Even if you don't think it's dangerous, play it safe and keep it securely stashed away.

2. Cleaning Substances

cleaning products are ripe with caustic detergents, harsh chemicals and toxic residues. Should a child inhale cleaner fumes or put an object in their mouth that contains cleanser residue, the effects can be lethal.

Many cleaners also contain corrosive agents that can burn the skin on contact, and other products, like antifreeze, taste sweet so a child may not know it's dangerous to drink. And, the bright colors are attractive to a child-Windex looks exactly like blue Kool-Aid, for example.

As with cosmetics and personal care items, always keep cleansers out of the reach of children. You can also quit using them altogether if you opt to clean your house with PerfectClean terry wipes and mops, whose ultramicrofiber construction enables the clothes, mops and dusters to reach deep into microscopic crevices (NO other cleaning tool available even comes close!) and remove everything in their path: all forms of dirt, dust, hair, dander, and the biological contaminants too small to see with the naked eye-without the need for chemical cleansers!

PerfectClean products are 100% safe, and are meant to be used dry or dampened with some water, which is ideal for homes with small children where poisoning is a major concern.

3. Pain Medicine/Fever Reducers

Signs That Your Child May Have Swallowed a Poison:

  • Severe throat pain
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Sudden behavior changes, such as unusual sleepiness, irritability or jumpiness
  • Unexplained nausea or vomiting
  • Stomach cramps without fever
  • Burns on your child's lips or mouth
  • Unusual drooling, or odd odors on your child's breath
  • Unexplained stains on your child's clothing
  • Convulsions or unconsciousness (only in very serious cases)

One study found that up to 40 percent of pediatric household poisonings occurred while a parent was using the product. Pain medications (or other medications) may look like candy to a small child, but their developing bodies cannot handle the adult-sized dosages and will process the drug much differently than an adult.

For this reason, it's never a good idea to encourage your child to take a medication by saying that it "tastes like candy."

If you take a medication, always be sure to take out only your necessary does and then put the rest in a secure location. The medicine cabinet is one of the worst places because children can easily climb up to them via the sink and open the door.

And don't rely on child-proof containers. Studies have found that children can invariably get them open if given enough time.

Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers can also be dangerous. Never give your child any medication, even if it's OTC, that is not specifically approved to be safe for children.

4. Coins and Thermometers

These objects present choking hazards to small children, who will often put small objects in their mouths immediately upon finding them left out on the floor or counter top.

If a coin larger than a penny is swallowed, an X-ray is generally needed to be sure it has passed through the esophagus.

Thermometers represent another hazard of mercury ingestion if they are broken. Mercury can emit a poisonous gas and is dangerous when swallowed, so be sure to clean up any broken glass thermometers thoroughly and safely.

5. Plants

Children may find the bright colors and different textures of plants irresistible, but some plants can be poisonous if touched or eaten. If you're in doubt about whether or not a plant is poisonous, don't keep it in your home. The risk is not worth it.

You can refer to the list in the box below for plants that should not be kept in homes with children. The list is not comprehensive, so be sure to seek out safety information on the plants in your home to be safe.

The following plants may be hazardous to your child, and should be kept out of reach or not in the home at all:

  • Bird of paradise
  • Bull nettle
  • Castor bean
  • Chinaberry tree
  • Crocus
  • Daffodil
  • Deadly nightshade
  • Dieffenbachia (dumb cane)
  • Foxglove
  • Glory lily
  • Hemlock
  • Holly berry
  • Indian tobacco
  • Iris
  • Jimsonweed
  • Lantana
  • Larkspur
  • Lily of the valley
  • Marijuana
  • Mescal bean
  • Mexicantes
  • Mistletoe
  • Morning glory
  • Mountain laurel
  • Night-blooming jasmine
  • Nutmeg
  • Oleander
  • Philodendron
  • Poison ivy
  • Poison sumac
  • Pokeweed
  • Poppy
  • Potato
  • Privet
  • Rhododendron
  • Rhubarb
  • Water hemlock
  • Wisteria

6. Diaper Care, Acne Preparations, Antiseptics

Children may suck on a tube of diaper cream or acne medication. These accidents typically occur because the items have been left out near a child's reach.

Some topical products, such as those containing methyl salicylate (oil of wintergreen)-ingesting1 teaspoon of some strengths of methyl salicylate can equal more than 20 adult aspirin tablets-camphorated oil, pennyroyal oil, oil of eucalyptus, and other concentrated essential oils can be extremely toxic to small children.

As with other questionable household items, keep all creams, ointments and preparations, even those that you use on your child like diaper cream, in an out-of-reach, locked or child-proofed cabinet.

7. Cough and Cold Preparations

Antihistamines, cough suppressants, expectorants and decongestants are often flavored like candy and may be mistakenly taken by children. Keep them, along with other medications, in a locked cabinet.

When giving your child cough or cold medicine, be sure that you are using the proper dose, and that another adult has not already given some to the child. If used incorrectly, cough and cold medications may cause agitation or drowsiness, and in large doses may effect blood pressure and heart rhythm.

8. Pesticides

Indoor pesticides, like mouse baits and roach traps, should be kept in areas where children and toddlers (and pets) are not allowed.

According to Dr. Mark McDonald, a pediatric intensivist at Palmetto Health Children's Hospital, "Pesticides can quickly kill a child. Never pour pesticides into other containers," he added, citing a case in which a parent poured plant fertilizer borrowed from a neighbor into a plastic soda bottle. The parent's child took a drink from the bottle in the garage and, despite being rushed to the emergency room, was brain-dead in 17 hours.

9. Vitamins

Believe it or not, vitamins are a common source of poisoning for children. The pills can, again, look like candy, and the doses and concentrations of nutrients and vitamins can overwhelm a child's system.

Treat all vitamins and supplements like drugs and keep them out of your child's reach. And never give your child vitamins meant for adults.

10. Gastrointestinal preparations

Small doses or sips of these preparations, though perhaps soothing for adults, can poison a child. These are another category of household items that should always be kept in a secure location that your child cannot get into, and should be used immediately (not left out on a counter where your child may be tempted by it).


The Most Common Poisons

University of Maryland Medicine

The Doctor's Book of Home Remedies for Children

Protect Your Child From Poisons

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