Accidental poisoning or suspected poisoning is a common reason for young children to be admitted into hospital.  Many products, like everyday painkillers or the newer liquid detergent capsules, may be overlooked by parents and carers as a danger.  It means they could be easily accessible in a handbag lying on the floor or in a convenient place under the sink.  

How many children are admitted for suspected poisoning?

  • Accidental poisoning is a particular problem for the under fives – they make up over two-thirds of all hospital admissions for accidental poisoning among children under 15.
  • Each day, 15 under fives are admitted to hospital because it’s suspected they’ve swallowed something poisonous.
  • Children from the poorest families are three times more likely to be admitted to hospital due to accidental poisoning.
  • Medicines are by far the most common cause of admissions for poisoning, with everyday painkillers a frequent culprit.

How can poisoning be prevented?

From as early as 6 months, babies start putting things in their mouths as they explore their environment.  Toddlers are particularly vulnerable to accidental poisoning from medicines and cleaning products, which can look very bright and enticing.  

As they get older, they also find it easier to get into child-resistant packaging – some 3-4 year olds can open child safety tops in seconds. So while ‘child-resistant’ packaging is helpful because it slows children down, it is certainly not ‘child-proof’.

That’s why it’s crucial for parents to stay one step ahead, by keeping dangerous things out of the reach of their inquisitive, exploring children.Whether you’re educating parents or carers about dangers in the home or looking to make your centre or home a safer place for the children you care for, there are lots of things you can do to minimise risks.

Simple changes to the child’s environment can prevent accidental poisoning. Some of the messages you’ll find in CAPT’s resources about poisoning include, but are not limited to:

  • Storing medicines and cleaning products out of reach and sight of young children, and fitting safety catches to cupboards or drawers where you store harmful products.  
  • Keeping medicines and cleaning products stored safely away in a room that is used frequently – for example, the kitchen –  and keeping sheds and garages locked.
  • Looking out for products that contain a bittering agent such as Bitrex, to deter accidental swallowing of household chemicals.