Keeping baby safe from household poisons

  Poisoning is the third leading cause of death by preventable injury in children. This is because children are vulnerable to common poisons as they crawl and play and they

  • PublishedAugust 29, 2011


Poisoning is the third leading cause of death by preventable injury in children. This is because children are vulnerable to common poisons as they crawl and play and they do not have the ability to differentiate between good and bad substances. They also have a tendency to touch everything they come across. Their weaker immune system means that even a mild poison that would be harmless to adults can be lethal. In the home environment, there are poisonous products that may affect children and parents need to know how to handle them.


To avoid poisoning, ensure products and medications are kept away from children’s reach. Kids have been known to ingest paraffin, iron tablets, aspirin, cold and cough syrups, washing detergents including disinfectants like Jik and Dettol, diaper care, acne preparations and antiseptics, cosmetics and personal care products, pesticides and gastrointestinal medications when they are not safely stored. All these products are harmful to your baby if ingested. Never put household products or chemicals in cups or food containers, as a child could ingest them believing they are food. Most importantly, do not leave children unsupervised. When using cleaning products, keep young children within your view.

Buy toys selectively because some have lead, which is poisonous. Ensure all medication is labelled properly so that you do not end up giving the wrong medicine or dosage. Make sure the dose given is the correct one. Check dates and ingredients for all foods and drinks before giving them to a child. Some plants can be poisonous, note them and keep them far from the child.

It is also important to educate your children about what they can and cannot play with as this will reduce chances of them playing with poisonous substances.

Use childproof latches to lock all drawers and cabinets containing possible poisons.

Lastly, if the worst has happened and your child has ingested a poisonous substance and is unconscious, having convulsions, or having trouble breathing, seek medical attention fast.


Food handling, right from production, to storage, preparation and cooking stages should be done right to avoid poisoning through, among other things, amoeba. Amoeba is a parasite that multiplies in food handled badly, resulting in poisoning. If food goes stale, do not give it to your baby. Instead, discard it and wash the utensils that contained the food thoroughly.

All baby food should be covered at all times. Bacteria multiply if temperatures where the food is kept are too warm and humid. Therefore, store non-dry foods in the refrigerator. Hands should be washed with soap before baby food is handled.

Treatment for poisoning will vary depending on the type of poison to which a child has been exposed. There are, however, basic home treatment measures that can help ease the symptoms associated with the most common poisons.

For example, if a child has inhaled poison, take him outside to get fresh air right away. If there is poison in the eyes, open the child’s eyelid and pour room temperature water into the inner corner of the eye. Flush for 15 to 20 minutes. For poison on the skin, remove contaminated clothing and rinse the child’s skin in lukewarm water for about 15 minutes, and for swallowed poison, make the child spit out any of the remaining substance. Do not induce vomiting. If symptoms are severe, or if the child collapses or stops breathing, seek medical help right away.

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