Our homes carry the potential for killing.

That’s a very strong statement but we tend to get a bit complacent with lethal poisons in our homes because we don’t recognize them for the dangers they are.

Household PoisonsCredit: bellaonline.com

The most common poisons in the home include the following:

  • An excessive amount of aspirin or any aspirin type medicine.
  • Soaps, detergents, cleaners and bleaches
  • Disinfectants and deodorizers
  • Insecticides
  • Glues and adhesives
  • Acids and alkalis (lye)
  • Liquid floor and furniture polish and wax

When in doubt, always assume the worst.  Children are inclined to consume all sorts of substances an adult would not ever think of putting his mouth.  Children will go out of their way to find such substances.  If circumstances suggest that a child might have eaten or drunk something noxious, asssume that he probably did.  If a child tells you that he has done so, believe him.

If you suspect someone has ingested a poisonous substance then you must proceed with life-saving actions immediately.  None of the following emergency procedures will harm someone who has not swallowed anything poisonous.  Failing to act could do a great deal of harm.  It's is truly better safe, than sorry.

Proceed as follows:

Give the victim a large glass of water or milk to dilute the poison.

Call your local poison control center immediately.  If you cannot find the number, call the hospital.  Post the number near all phones in your own home.

Be prepared to give the poison control center the following information:

  • Age of victim
  • The type of poison and amount swallowed, if known.
  • First aid that has been and is being given.
  • Information as to whether the person has vomited.

Immediate action is required and here are some directions to help get the victim to the hospital:

If the victim is unconscious, keep the airway open.

Save the container of the suspected poison and take a sample of vomitus (if vomiting has occurred) along when going for medical assistance. The medical staff will need this for investigation and determination of poisoning

Whether or not to induce vomiting depends on the poison that has been ingested.  Your local poison control center will advise you in this regard.

Do not induce vomiting if the following poisons have been swallowed:  ammonia, lye products, sulfuric, nitric or hyrochloric acids, benzene, liquid furniture and metal polish, turpentine and oven cleaners.

If you have been directed to induce vomiting by a doctor, hospital, or poison control center, do so by giving the victim an emetic (something that will provoke vomiting).   The safest emetic is syrup of ipecac.  This is something that should be in every home medicine cabinet and first aid kit.  The dosage is two tablespoonfuls unless the victim is under the age of three years, in which case the dose is one tablespoonful, followed by large amounts of water.

In one year alone, 500,000 children will swallow poisonous materials.  Half of them will be seriously injured and at least 400 children will die from poisoning. 

The advice in this article mainly concerns young children who most often ingest toxic substances.  But it applies as well to the older person who, whether accidently or deliberately, eats or drinks a toxic quantity of anything, including an overdose of a drug or medication.

Fully 95% of the reported cases of accidental poisonings have occurred when the children were supposedly under supervision of parents or other adults.  Moreover, 90% of all reported cases of poisoning, involve children five years and younger.

Medicine is not candy; never call it that to entice a child to take it.  Remember that cough syrups look like soft drinks and many coated medicine tablets look like candy coated chocolates.  Some children's aspirin have a pleasant candy flavor so children will take it more easily.  But make it clear to children that this is medicine, and not candy.  Aspirin is the most common cause of accidental poisoning of children.  A bottle of 50 children's aspirin tablets can kill a child.


Proper storage is the key to prevention in accidental household poisoning. Keep medicines and household products locked up and out the reach of children.  Treat them like the dangerous substances they are and don’t get complacent and leave them out and unattended. 

Ask for and use safety lids or closures on containers of medications and other potentially dangerous products.

Keep all products and chemicals in the original containers they came in and make sure they are well labeled.  Use the poison symbol to identify hazardous substances that have been transferred into other containers such as a spray bottle for dilution of the chemical.

When taking medications, make sure there is sufficient light in which to read the labels.  Never transfer medications into other containers.  They should always be kept in the container they came in so they can be indentified easily in the case of an accidental overdose.  

Store and shelve medications in a location away from foodstuffs.  They should always be kept on high shelves and preferrably in a locked cabinet away from the kitchen. 

Around children, always call medicine just that - not candy.

Use potentially dangerous violatile substances only in well ventilated areas.

Train your family!  Hold a family meeting in which you can educate your children about the dangers of all household chemicals and medications.  Many children do not understand the dangers that lurk in the products they use every day such as hairspray or bathroom cleaners. 

We often expect our children to help clean and maintain our homes without telling them how to properly use all chemicals.  They need to be taught about the dangers of mixing household cleaning products.  Explain the different poisonous symbols and why they are used. 

Provide and use safety gear such as masks and gloves when doing major household cleaning projects.

Not only should you teach them how to use household chemicals, medications, and other products properly, but what to do in the event of a poison emergency.  Teaching a little basic first aid and how to follow the proper procedures and why, can save a life or at the very least, keep someone from serious harm.

Post emergency numbers, including the national Poison Control Hotline (1-800-222-1222) by each phone.