Preventing poisoning in children

The most common form of poisoning in the UK is from medication. The following advice should help prevent accidental poisoning by medication:

  • Always read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medication carefully and take your dosage exactly as recommended.
  • If you are unsure about any of the instructions or have further questions, ask your pharmacist or GP for advice.
  • Some medications should not be taken with alcohol or certain types of food. Check if this is the case for your medication.
  • Some medications can react unpredictably if taken with other medications, including herbal remedies. Always check before combining different medications.
  • Never take a medication that has been prescribed for somebody else.
  • Keep all medication out of reach of children.

Keeping children safe

Children under five have a particularly high risk of poisoning. The following advice should help reduce the risk for your children:

  • Make sure all medicines, cleaning products, chemicals and potentially harmful cosmetics, such as nail varnish, are locked away out of the sight and out of reach of children.
  • Do not store medicines, cleaning products or chemicals near food.
  • Keep all chemicals in their original containers and never put medicines or chemicals, such as weedkiller, in soft-drinks bottles.
  • When encouraging children to take medicine (when they are sick), do not refer to tablets as sweets.
  • Do not leave old medicines lying around. Take them to your local pharmacist to dispose of safely.
  • Keep cigarettes and tobacco out of reach of children and do not smoke in front of children.
  • Small batteries, such as those used for television remote controls, can be easily swallowed, so keep them out of the reach of children.
  • Whenever possible, buy medicines that come in child-resistant containers.
  • Rinse out medicine or cosmetic containers and dispose of them in a place where children cannot reach them.
  • Do not take or give medicines in the dark to avoid taking an incorrect dosage.

If you have young children, be extra careful when you have guests to stay or when you go to visit other people. If your friends and relatives do not have children, they may not think to keep certain items out of the reach of children and their home is unlikely to be childproof.

Keep an eye on your children at all times and politely ask guests to keep items such as alcohol and cigarettes out of their reach.

Read more about preventing accidents to children in the home.

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