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Childproof Your Home for Poisons

Young children are curious and like to put things in their mouth. Ordinary products used by adults each day around the home can become dangerous poisons in the hands of a child. The National Safety Council estimates that 40,000 children younger than age 4 are injured by unintentional poisonings every year.

Common childhood poisonings in the home

  • Products stored in old bottles and cans instead of in their original containers

  • Products taken out of their usual storage place and left where children can access them

  • Products stored in unlocked cabinets and drawers where children have easy access

  • Products visible and able to be seen by inquisitive children

  • Safety packaging that isn't used or child resistant closures that aren't reapplied after opening

Tips to help reduce unintentional poisonings in the home

  • Post the poison control center number near the telephone. The universal telephone number in the United States is 800-222-1222. Calls are routed to the local poison control center.

  • Teach your child about poisons at an early age.

  • Buy and store all medicine, vitamins, and household products in child-resistant packaging. Remember that child-resistant doesn't mean childproof.

  • Store medications, vitamins, iron supplements, household cleaners, toiletries, paints, varnishes, thinners, pesticides, fertilizers, and other dangerous products in a locked cabinet in their original, labeled containers. Use safety latches for drawers and cabinet doors.

  • Never store inedible products in food or drink containers, even when re-labeled. Children may not be able to read the label.

  • Dispose of any expired medications by following instructions that came with them. If there are no instructions, most medications can be taken out of their original container and thrown in the trash or taken to a drug take-back program in your community. If in doubt about how to dispose of a medication, ask your pharmacist.

  • Alcohol is poisonous to children. Never give a child an alcoholic beverage to drink—not even in small amounts. Store alcoholic beverages out of your child's reach.

  • Keep tobacco products, matches, lighters, and ashtrays out of your child's reach.

  • Know your household and outdoor plants by name. Keep poisonous plants away from your child.

  • Crawl through your rooms and put yourself at eye level, checking every place your children may go on their hands and knees. Be sure to properly discard anything that could be harmful.

  • Don't take medication in front of your child; children are great imitators. Don't tell your child that medication is candy in order to get your child to take it.

  • Read labels thoroughly every time you give medication. Many children are accidentally poisoned when given the wrong medication or the wrong dose. Mistakes often occur in the middle of the night, so be sure to turn on a light when giving medication.

  • Read labels on all products you purchase before you buy or use them. Buy products that are the least toxic ones for the job.

  • Be careful when visiting others, staying in hotels, or having visitors in your home. Purses and suitcases are inviting objects for children to explore.

  • When answering the phone or doorbell, take poisonous products that you're using with you. Don't make them available to your child for even a moment.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission requires safety caps on a variety of commonly used household products.

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