Child Safety: Poisons In Your Home by Dr. Chetan Ginigeri

7 min read

By Dr. Chetan Ginigeri,MBBS(JIPMER), MD (PGIMER), Fellowship PICU (Kings College London)
Head of Dept – Paediatric & Neonatal services, Aster CMI Hospital
17 years of experience

Child safety poisons

Unintentional poisoning among children is increasing incredibly over the last decade. Another statistic shows that every day, two children die and 300 children take treatment for unintentional poisoning. These startling facts point to the importance of knowing the household products that put your child in danger if not kept properly. Poison in your home is many a time overlooked and it can potentially pave the way to unfortunate consequences.

From pesticides to personal care products, most of the items we store in our home cause poisoning if not properly used. It is very important to store these items out of the reach of children and even adults who may use them carelessly. Do you know that your favorite deodorant could poison your child? Shocked? Just make a list of the items you store in the house and tick the items that are considered poisonous by reading the labels on them. The results must be more shocking.

In This Article

Why is it Necessary to Identify Household Poisons?

Children are inquisitive, curious little beings, and their general sense of exploration drives them to taste everything. This is especially true for babies and toddlers, who want to pull open all caps and taste everything. Lest you find yourself in an unfortunate situation, it is necessary to identify simple household items that can be poisonous and ensure that they are always kept out of your kids’ reach.

Top 12 Easily Accessible and Dangerous Household Poisons For Your Child

Here is the list of the top 12 dangerous household poisons, which are easily accessible to children:

1. Mothballs

moth ball

Mothballs contain either Naphthalene or Paradichlorobenzene. They are fumigants (volatilize into the air). Both the chemicals can be absorbed dermally. Even one mothball can potentially raise a serious health issue if swallowed by a child. Keep all the mothballs out of the reach of children. Refrain from allowing them to play with them, and do not just think that packaged balls are childproof – keep them away in containers that your child cannot unlock.

2. Nail Polish Remover

So, you are changing your nail paint, and then you keep the nail polish remover on the side table. Your child may want to see what is it that mummy was using, and Bam! The nail polish remover is an unnoticed poison in your home. Nail polish poisoning will occur when your child swallows it or inhales it. The main component of nail polish remover is acetone. Intake of nail polish remover leads to acetone poisoning. Even the consumption of a small amount will lead to serious health issues for your child.

3. Nail Glue Remover

Nail glue removers that help remove artificial nails can be dangerously poisonous. Cyanide poisoning was reported in children who swallow nail glue remover accidentally.

4. Hydrocarbons

This is a large group that includes kerosene, lamp oil, gasoline, paint thinners, furniture polishes, motor oils etc. Most of these items are seen in our garages and stores. These can be the leading cause of death due to unintentional poisoning. Make sure that your child does not have access to such places where you store the above items.

5. Medicines

little girl playing with medicines

Medicines are meant to be taken in the right amounts for the right person. The medical kit which contains sanitizer to sleeping pills is common and absolutely necessary in every household. Medicines, including cough syrups, painkillers, prescription drugs, and sleeping aids are very dangerous and also can be fatal if taken accidentally.

Iron pills, which seem comparatively harmless, if taken by your child in large numbers, can result in vomiting blood and bloody diarrhea. Children love to drink syrups because of their sweetness. They usually mistake tablets and capsules for candies because of their colorful appearance.

Keeping medicines locked up, out of sight, and reach of children is very important. Never leave medicines carelessly and don’t take your medicine in front of your child. They may try to imitate you. Refrain from telling your child that medicine tastes like candy, and you know why! It is dangerous for your child to swallow prescription drugs.

[Read: Child Safety- Store and Use Medicines Safely]

6. Alcohol

When children swallow alcohol, they can suffer from seizures and may get into a coma. In extreme cases, alcohol ingestion can be fatal for them. Toiletries like facial cleansers, hair tonics, and mouthwashes can sometimes have higher levels of alcohol. so consider alcohol a poison in your home that could harm your child.

7. Pesticides and Insecticides

In most of our houses, we store pesticides and insecticides. Intake of these chemicals causes acute poisoning, which can be lethal. Keeping pesticides and insecticides away from the reach of children and cleaning your hands thoroughly after their use is a must.

8. Button Batteries

When you have children at home, you should ensure that you store them away safely and not leave them accessible to your little ones. 20 mm lithium coin cells, especially, are too small and children can easily swallow them.

The batteries can get stuck in the esophagus and cause burns within two hours. A hole may develop and there are chances that it may extend to the trachea or aorta, which is fatal.

[Read : Battery Safety For Infants]

9. Topical Preparation

Topical preparations are creams, lotions, ointments, foams, or gel. These are used for applying on cuts, bruises, and wounds. Serious poisoning can happen due to oral ingestion of these medicines.

10. Indoor Plants

indoor plants

Indoor plants will increase the beauty of your rooms. But some indoor plants like Chinese evergreen and English ivy etc. are poisonous plants. Intake of such plants in small or moderate amounts accidentally will result in harmful reactions, especially in children. So make sure your indoor plants do not belong to the poisonous group. Even if it is not poisonous, keep it out of the reach of children because if they swallow the leaves or any other part of it, it may result in choking.

11. Turpentine

This volatile liquid (evaporates at room temperature) is a common ingredient in furniture and floor polishes. This poison in your home can cause toxic reactions when inhaled or swallowed. In severe cases, kidney failure, vomiting blood, severe abdominal pain, low blood pressure, collapsing, etc., can also happen.

12. Antifreeze

They are basically ethylene glycol used as engine coolers and are found in garages. Most antifreeze brands have a sweet smell and taste that attract children’s attention. When storing antifreeze in your garage, ensure to label it properly and store it securely out of the reach of children.

5 Preventive Measures to Avoid Poisoning in Children

Preventive Measures to Avoid Poisoning in Children

Considering 9 out of 10 poisonings occur at homes, and a majority of poisonings affect kids younger than 5 years of age, there is a need to take preventive measures.

These 5 preventive measures can help prevent children from getting poisoned.

  1. Store medicine, cleaning and laundry products, paints/varnishes, and pesticides in their original packaging in locked cabinets or containers, out of sight and reach of children.
  2. Invest in safety latches that automatically lock when you close a cabinet door. Although this can reduce the risk of children coming in contact with dangerous products, the safest place to store poisonous products is out of children’s reach, sight, and reach.
  3. Ensure that you store all medicines in containers with safety caps and away from the reach of children. Usually, the design of safety caps prevents children from removing them, but never expect them to be fully childproof. Make it a practice of removing unused medicines from the shelves. Don’t use enticing names for medicines, such as “candy”.
  4. Maintain gas appliances, furnaces, coal stoves, wood stoves, and kerosene stoves in good working order. Any malfunction of them can produce poisonous gas.
  5. When administering medicine to a child, check the label to ensure the correct dosage. You should use the medicine measuring cap that came with the medicine if it is a liquid medicine. Never use kitchen spoons to measure the medicine.

Discarding unwanted things, proper labeling, and storing harmful things out of the reach of children will reduce your child’s chances of accidental poisoning. Keeping all the medicines in their original containers, installing childproof locks, creating high altitude shelves, and being aware are some simple things you can do to prevent serious issues in the future.

[Read : Childproofing Your Home For Poisons]


1. What is the First Step in Any Case of Suspected Poisoning?

  • If the substance is still in the child’s mouth, make him or her spit it out or remove it with your fingers.
  • If your child spills a chemical on his or her body, remove contaminated clothes. Rinse the skin well with lukewarm for at least 15 minutes, no matter how much your child may protest. Then call the emergency number or your pediatrician for more instructions.
  • Take your child to fresh air immediately if he or she has breathed in poisonous fumes or gasses.

2. What Household Items Have Cyanide in Them?

  • To manufacture paper, textiles, and plastics, cyanide is used.
  • It is found in pesticides and rat poison
  • It is abundant in tobacco smoke.

3. Which Fruits and Seeds Are Poisonous?

  • Apple seeds and cherry stones contain minimal traces of cyanide.
  • Pear seeds have a potentially lethal cyanide compound.
  • The seeds of nectarine, apricots, and peaches are also poisonous.

Read Also: Safe Use, Safe Home: Child Poisoning Prevention by Dr. Chetan Ginigeri

Dr. Chetan Ginigeri,MBBS(JIPMER), MD (PGIMER), Fellowship PICU (Kings College London)
Head of Dept – Paediatric & Neonatal services, Aster CMI Hospital
17 years of experience

Dr Chetan Ginigeri is an experienced Pediatric Intensivist with national and international training. With 15 years of experience, he is one among very few Intensivists in India trained to take care of children who need/had organ transplants. He has been responsible for coordinating the Pediatric Organ Transplant program.Read more.

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