How to prevent poisoning in the home

Holidays are an important time to be vigilant with children and adults alike around potential household hazards.

The numbers are worrying. Around 180,000 calls are made to Poisons Information Centres in Australia each year and around half of those incidents involve children who’ve come into contact with poisonous, or potentially toxic, substances.

The most common culprits

  • All purpose and hard surface cleaners
  • Bleach
  • Dishwashing detergents
  • Silica gel
  • Toilet bowl cleaners
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Glow sticks
  • Laundry detergents
  • Disinfectant
  • Eucalyptus Oil

From detergents and toilet cleaners to hand sanitisers and pool chemicals – many everyday household products are a hazard, particularly for younger children.

A recent report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) found almost 2,500 children are admitted to hospital each year following poisonings – that’s around 50 children a week.

“The most serious incidents relate to carbon monoxide exposure, button batteries, caustic cleaners such as oven and BBQ cleaners, acids, pool chemicals, household bleaches and herbicides,” says Delia Rickard, ACCC Deputy Chair.

“Children under five are most at risk of accidental poisoning, with the risk highest for two-year-olds.”

The ACCC report says injuries from poisons range from skin irritations and eye damage through to severe internal burns. Swallowing toxic products can lead to difficulty in swallowing, chest pains, abdominal pain and vomiting. Some chemicals lead to rashes, chemical burns and blindness if they come into contact with the skin or eyes.

“The most common causes of poisoning incidents were all-purpose and hard surface cleaners, detergents, toilet bowl products, bleach, hand sanitisers, detergents and glow sticks,” adds Delia Rickard.

“Poisonings often occur on holidays when families are heading to holiday houses or visiting friends and relatives who may not have young children. Be especially vigilant and check the house on arrival to ensure medicines and household chemicals cannot fall into little hands.”

How to keep your home safe from poisons

Store cleaning products in a secure cabinet that children can’t reach.

Check the kitchen, laundry, bathroom, toilet, garage and garden shed for potential poisons and stow them away securely.

If you’re staying in a holiday house or holiday rental, check the house for any chemicals and put them out of reach of children.

If you’re staying with friends or relatives, ask them to put any household chemicals away and out of sight of children.

Keep household chemicals in their original containers – don’t transfer them to used soft drink bottles. Young children could easily mistake poison for pop!

Read the safety instructions on product labels and follow use and storage directions.

Always close containers properly so any child resistant features work correctly.

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Written by Sarah Marinos