Child Safety - Poison Prevention

If you think your child has been poisoned call the Poisons Information Centre at (01) 809 2166 (each day from 8am -10pm). 
Outside of these hours, contact your GP or hospital.  In an emergency call 999 or 112.

Know the ABC of Poisoning:
  • A = Always store medicine and chemicals safely
  • B = Be prepared! Know what to do
  • C = Call the Public Poisons Information Line - (01) 809 2166 (each day from 8am -10pm) - save this number to your phone now.  Outside of these hours, contact your GP or hospital.  In an emergency call 999 or 112.
What is a poison?

A poison is any substance that can cause harm if it is swallowed, inhaled, injected or absorbed through the skin or eye. Poisoning can occur with medicines, household products, cosmetics, plants, garden products, farming and industrial chemicals and animals (for example wasp stings).  Poisoning can cause illness, sometimes serious, and even result in death.

Keep handbags out of sight and reach of children.Poisons and children:
  • Poisoning is most likely to happen to children aged 1- 4 years old.
  • Most incidents take place in the child’s home, the home of a grandparent or a childminder, or at crèche or school.
  • Children are most likely to come in contact with poisons during the afternoon, at the weekend and during school holidays.
  • Accidental poisoning can be easily prevented by keeping harmful substances out of reach and out of sight of children.
  •  You need to be careful with many common products, including:
  • Children can be fascinated by these products - things that adults would not give a second glace to!  This advert from the Consumer Safety Institute Netherlands, shows this perfectly:

children see things differently

Safety Tips for your home:
  • Buy products with child resistant caps, where possible, and always store them securely.
  • Remember that "child-resistant" does not mean "child-proof". Child-resistant lids are designed to slow children down when they try to open a container, which might give you a chance to notice what is happening and take action.  
  • Store medicines in a high, locked cupboard.
  • Store household and cleaning chemicals in high cupboards and use safety locks.
  • Use childproof safety locks on cupboards.
  • Never use soft drinks bottles for storage.
  • Keep all products in their original containers.
  • Do not remove the label as it contains important information.
  • Read medicine labels carefully to avoid mistakes. Talk with your GP or pharmacist if you have any questions.
  • Teach children to always ask the adult minding them if something is safe to eat or drink.
  • Ask advice from staff in your garden centre when buying plants.
  • Replace all lids on products.
  • Install carbon monoxide and smoke alarms in your home.
  • Be careful about what you leave in your handbag in reach of children – do you have tablets, chewing gum, hand gel, cosmetics, perfume etc in your bag? 
  • Do not leave medicine, cigarettes, hand gel, car products or other chemicals in your car where children can see and reach them.
If you think your child has been poisoned:
  • Stay calm but act quickly.
  • Take the poison away from your child.
  • If the poison was eaten, make the child spit it out, run your fingers around their mouth and flick out any remaining pieces.
  • Never make your child vomit.
  • If a chemical has splashed into the eyes, wash the eyes with tap water for 15 minutes.
  • Wash any skin that was in contact with the poison with soap and water.
  • Do not give your child anything to eat or drink, unless directed to do so by healthcare staff.
  • Call the Poisons Information Centre (01) 809 2166 (8am-10pm) - save this number to your phone now.  Outside of these hours, contact your GP or hospital.  In an emergency call 999 or 112.  
  • Always take the product container with you to the telephone or to the GP or hospital.
  • Remember, always seek medical advice even if your child seems to be fine - the signs and symptoms of poisoning can be delayed.
  • Find out more at the end of the page and check out the Poisoning section of the Child Safety Inside and Outside the Home video on the HSE YouTube channel.
Questions you will be asked so that the best advice and help can be given:
  • What was taken?
  • How much was taken?
  • What is the child’s age and weight?
  • Does the child have symptoms?
  • Does the child have an existing medical problem?
  • What time did the poisoning occur?
  • Is there information on the container?
  • What is the product used for?
Poison Info CentreResources from the National Poisons Information Centre (NPIC):

Source:  The National Poisons Information Centre


Button batteries:
  • Button batteries which can be found in toys, remote controls, calculators and small electronic devices are dangerous to children if swallowed.
  • Lithium batteries react with saliva so that they leak corrosive chemicals. If a child swallows a battery it can cause severe injuries, including burns to the throat, stomach or intestines, and has even caused death.
  • ROSPA advise:
    • Make sure that toys and other products with button batteries, such as small electronic devices, have lockable battery compartments. These are safer for children to use as the batteries are locked away.
    • Be extra careful with items including musical greeting cards, flameless candles and remote controls as they do not have locked battery compartments. Children should not be allowed to have access to these products if the battery compartment is not secure
    • Make sure that spare batteries are locked away, and used batteries are disposed of correctly.
    • If your child swallows a button battery, seek medical advice immediately.
    • For more information, read "Your child and button batteries" from Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT)
    • Dispose of used or leaking batteries carefully.

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Carbon Monoxide (from www.carbonmonoxide.ie):
  • Carbon Monoxide (also known as CO) is highly dangerous. It can occur with fossil fuels including gas, oil, coal, wood, petrol, diesel. You can't see it or smell it. In fact it is often called "the silent killer". It is a common yet preventable cause of death from poisoning worldwide.
  • When carbon monoxide is inhaled into the body it combines with the blood, preventing it from absorbing oxygen. If a person is exposed to carbon monoxide over a period, it can cause illness and even death.
  • You can be in danger of Carbon Monoxide poisoning at home if dangerous amounts of Carbon Monoxide build up in the home. This can happen as a result of any or a combination of the following:
    • Faulty or damaged heating appliances
    • Heating appliance not maintained or serviced
    • Rooms not properly ventilated
    • Blocked chimneys or flues
    • Indoor use of a barbecue grill or outdoor heater
    • Poor installation of heating appliances
    • Incorrect operation of heating appliances
    • Property alterations or home improvements, which reduce ventilation
    • Running engines in garages or sheds
    • Using cooking appliances for heating purposes
  • The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) is warning consumers that the highly poisonous gas carbon monoxide is produced anywhere a fuel is burned, not just in the home. Watch their video clip for further information.
  • Barbecues have been linked to campsite deaths caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. If you're planning on using a barbecue, whether it's a disposable one, gas or charcoal make sure you keep yourself safe and don't put yourself at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Click here for important safety advice.
  • Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning can be similar to those caused by other illnesses such as a cold or flu. They include
    • Unexplained headaches, chest pains or muscle weakness
    • Sickness, diarrhoea or stomach pains
    • Sudden dizziness when standing up
    • General lethargy (sluggishness/lack of energy/unexplained tiredness)
  • If anyone in your house has any symptoms, get fresh air immediately, then go to your doctor and ask him/her to check for Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
  • Stop using the appliance immediately and do not use it again until it has been checked by a registered installer or a qualified service agent.
Know the danger signs and what to do:
  • If you notice any of the following warning signs that your appliance is not working properly, get a professional service technician to check the unit for safety:
    • Staining, soot or discolouration around the appliance
    • Appliances that burn slowly, badly (with orange or 'floppy' flames) or go out
    • A yellow or orange flame where normally blue
    • Condensation or dampness on walls and windows in the room when the appliance is on
    • A strange smell when the appliance is on
    • Rusting or water streaking on appliance cabinet/vent/chimney
    • Loose or disconnected vent/chimney connections or guards
  • Follow safety precautions and get advice on home appliances.
  • Use Carbon Monoxide alarms but remember these are no substitute for regular inspection and maintenance of appliances, vents, flues and chimneys. Check that the Carbon Monoxide alarm complies with the EN 50291 standard.
  • View this short video for advice on the best place to locate carbon monoxide alarms in your home.
  • The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) is warning consumers that the highly poisonous gas carbon monoxide is produced anywhere a fuel is burned, not just in the home. Watch their video clip for further information.
  • Download The Facts About Carbon Monoxide information leaflet. 

For further information, visit www.carbonmonoxide.ie


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Cleaning products:
  • These include things like:
    • washing machine and dish washer liquids/powders/tablets/pods/capsules
    • bleach and bleach productsStore cleaning products carefully
    • cleaning products – washing up liquid, surface cleaners, hob cleaners, oven cleaners, sink cleaners, floor cleaners etc
    • floor and furniture polish
    • bathroom cleaning products and bleach products
  • These can poison, cause skin reactions or even burn injuries. Take action now:
    • Store household cleaning products in secure overhead cupboards/presses - out of sight and reach of children.
    • Use cupboard safety locks.
    • Keep all products in their original containers.
    • Never use soft drink bottles as storage for any cleaning product or chemical.
    • Buy products with child resistant caps where possible.
    • Do not leave household products open or unattended while in use.
    • Do not mix cleaning products or use two different products at the same time. Some mixtures can produce a toxic gas - for example bleach and toilet cleaner should not be used together.
    • Follow instructions carefully.

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Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes):
  • These products contain nicotine which is highly toxic/poisonous when swallowed or inhaled by children.
  • The National Poisons Information Centre reminds us that children will copy the actions of adults, so we should not leave electronic cigarettes in the reach or sight of children.
  • If your child swallows any of the liquid in an electronic cigarette take them to the emergency department.
  • If you decide to stop smoking, remember that some of the stop smoking products such as gum, sprays, pastilles and patches contain nicotine and can cause harm to children. Always keep these products out of sight and reach of children.

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In the Garden:Poisons in Garden
  • Be careful when choosing plants and flowers for your home and garden – some are poisonous.
  • Get rid of any mushrooms/fungi you see growing in your garden.
  • Keep plant food, weed killer, slug pellets etc locked away - in their original containers - outKeep away from Giant Hogweed of sight and reach of children.
  • The giant hogweed plant will often be found in grassy or waste land, especially near water. Even slight contact with this plant can cause serious skin irritation in the presence of sun light - so keep children away from it.

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Hygiene products and cosmetics:Keep cosmetics out of reach
  • Keep perfumes, deodorants, cosmetics, creams etc out of reach and sight of children.
  • Keep items such as shaving foam, shampoo, shower gel, mouthwash, toothpaste, alcohol hand gels etc out of reach and sight of children.

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Laundry and dishwasher tablets/capsules/pods:
  • Laundry and dishwasher tablets/capsules/pods are often attractive to children due to their bright colours and interesting texture.
  • These items present a serious risk of injury to children. Keep detergents out of sight and reach of children
  • They should be handled only by adults.
  • Store them out of sight and reach of children.
  • The National Poisons Information Centre advises:
    • Children who are exposed to the chemicals in “laundry liquid tablets/capsules/pods” are at risk of injury.
    • These capsules dissolve quickly when in contact with water, wet hands, or saliva.
    • Children can develop vomiting, drowsiness, throat swelling, and difficulty breathing following ingestion of the capsule contents.
    • Eye contact with the contents from burst capsules can cause severe irritation and burns.
  • Use laundry liquid tablets/capsules/pods with care:
    • Always handle laundry capsules carefully and with dry hands.
    • Never allow children to handle them.
    • Keep them out of reach and out of sight of children.
    • Keep these products in their original containers.
    • Close the container fully after taking out a capsule and put it back in the cupboard straight away.
  • Seek medical advice if your child swallows any of the liquid/contents of a tablet or capsule.  Do not make your child vomit.

  • If the contents come into contact with your child's hands, wash thoroughly.
  • If the liquid get into a child’s eyes, wash the eyes with tap water for at least 10-15 minutes.
  • Always call a doctor, the Poison Information Centre (01 – 809 2166) or your nearest hospital emergency department.
  • For further information, visit the Health and Safety Authority's website.

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Medicines:
  • Keep all medicines in containers with child-resistant caps/lids - remember that "child-resistant" does not mean "child-proof". Child-resistant lids are designed to slow children down when they try to open a container, giving you the chance to notice what is happening and take action.
  • Keep medicines and chemicals locked out of reach and sight of children.
  • Remember, this includes items herbal, iron and vitamin tablets or substances - iron is very dangerous, especially to children, if taken in a high dose.
  • Read directions for use carefully before taking or giving medicine, vitamins etc.  Talk with your GP or pharmacist if you have any questions.
  • Children like to copy adults - try to take your medicine when your young child is not watching you.
  • When visiting another home, take a few minutes to check for medicines or cleaning products lying around places your child is likely to explore - like grandparents' bedside lockers
  • Return any old or unused medication to your pharmacist.
  • Don’t refer to medicines or vitamins as sweets.

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If you think your child has been poisoned:

 Keep container

Stay calm but act quickly.

Take the poison away from your child.

If the poison was eaten, make the child spit it out and run your fingers around the mouth and flick out any remaining pieces.

Keep the container - the doctor will need to see it.

Do not eat or drink

Do not give your child anything to eat or drink, unless directed to do so by healthcare staff.

Never make your child vomit. 

Clean it

If chemical has been splashed into the eye, wash it with tap water for 15 minutes.

Use soap and water to wash any skin that was in contact with poison. 

Contact Us

Don't delay! Call the Poisons Information Centre at (01) 809 2166 - 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.

Your call will be answered by a Specialist in Poisons Information who will tell you if medical attention is needed.

Outside these hours, contact your GP or hospital.

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Most unintentional injuries (often called accidents) can be prevented:

Remember the key message where child safety is concerned -
Watch your child at all times, as children do not understand danger

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The following image is from flickr.com - Tide Pods Laundry Detergent Capsules by Au Kirk
The following image is from dreamstime.com - Cosmetics copyright Djenver