Suspected poisoning is one of the most common reasons for young children to be taken to A&E.

Did you know…?

  • Child-resistant tops and strip and blister packs for tablets help to slow children down but they are not childproof. Some 3-4 year olds can open them in seconds!
  • Swallowing medicines, like everyday painkillers that you might keep in your handbag or bedside cabinet, is the most common way for children to be poisoned.
  • The detergent capsules and concentrated liquids under the kitchen sink can harm children too – they can cause accidental poisoning but also squirt into the eyes and cause damage. The capsules come in boxes that aren’t child-resistant.

Safety reminders – how to stop children from being poisoned

First steps

At around 6 months babies start to put things in their mouths, which means they are at risk of swallowing something harmful. You can stop them from getting hold of poisonous things. 

The best place to keep medicines is locked away or up high where your baby can’t come across them. Fit safety catches on any low cupboard doors and drawers and make sure bottle tops and lids are on properly.

Don’t forget the painkillers in your handbag on the floor or the ones on the bedside table.

Before your baby starts to crawl and move around, move the cleaning products from around the toilet or under the kitchen sink into a high cupboard out of sight.

Look out for products that contain a bittering agent like Bitrex. It tastes so horrible that it means that children are much more likely to spit the dangerous chemical out.

Remember, the liquid detergent capsules can be dangerous too – if children squeeze or bite them the liquid can squirt out. Keep them stored safely away.


Toddlers love to explore and will copy what you do. This means they are more at risk from poisoning than any other age group. Here’s how to make sure your toddler stays safe from poisoning. 

Keeping your medicines and cleaning things locked up or out of reach and sight is the safest way to protect your toddler. Ideally put them in a high lockable cupboard. It’s best to keep them in a room which people use a lot. That means if your child has climbed up on a chair or worktop and is exploring in cupboards they are more likely to be seen by an adult or brother or sister.

‘Child resistant’ caps are not ‘child-proof’. Some 3-4 year olds can open them in seconds, so make sure they’re locked away too.

Toddlers like to copy what you do. Try to take your medicine when your toddler isn’t watching.

Avoid pretending your child’s medicine is a sweet, even if it’s hard to get them to take it. It can be confusing for your toddler.

When you’re visiting friends or relatives, take a few moments to look out for medicines or cleaning products lying around, like in Granny’s bedside table, so you’re not taken by surprise.

Even small amounts of alcohol can be harmful to small children, so clear up any glasses with alcohol dregs left in them.

Remember to be careful with aromatherapy oils, perfumes and cigarettes too as they can all be harmful to small children.

Young children

Children between 3 to 5 may know something about what they can safely eat, but they are still at risk from accidental poisoning. They are much more likely to be able to open child-resistant tops too. 

Your child may easily be confused by colourful medicines that look like sweets. So keep them locked safely away and in the original bottles.

Do the same with cleaning products, DIY or garden chemicals, whether they are kept in the house or the garden shed.

Plants in the garden can be confusing too. Teach your child not to eat anything they pick outside. Poisonous berries can easily look like the ones they have in their pudding!

Carbon Monoxide

You can’t see, smell or taste it but if but if carbon monoxide creeps out from flame burning appliances it can kill children in seconds. 

Make sure that you have an audible carbon monoxide alarm fitted in your home – ideally one in every room with a fuel-burning appliance.

Do you work with families?

We have lots of free resources to help you create a talking point, run an engaging workshop or provide essential advice to the families you work with.

Session plan

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Poisoning Session Plan

Advice in translation

Download our translated fact sheets to share with families below. For more safety advice in translation on a range of other topics click here.

Printed resources

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