The Ultimate Guide to Poison Proofing Your Home: 34 Tips and Resources
You probably don’t think of your home as a place where you store poisons that could kill your family, but chances are that you probably do. Everyday items including cleaning products, medications, even the furnace you use to heat your home can cause deadly poisoning if not used properly.
While it can be unnerving to live with deadly poisons in your home, they don’t have to be dangerous. With careful precautions, education, and safe poison habits, you and your family can prevent accidental poisonings at home.
We have the ultimate guide to poison proofing your home. In this guide, you’ll learn about poison statistics, the top household poisons, how you can reduce your poison risk, common poisoning symptoms, and resources for learning more about poisons — plus how you can get help if you suspect a poisoning at home.
These statistics from the U.S. Poison Control Center illustrate just how common it is to experience a poison exposure.
- More than 90% of the time, poisonings happen in people’s homes, the majority in kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms
- There are nearly 2.2 million human poison exposures each year
- Per 1,000 people, there are 6.7 poison exposures annually and 42.6 poison exposures in children younger than six years old per 1,000 children
- Children ages one and two have the highest incidence of poison exposure with 8,327 and 8,085 exposures per 100,000 children
- Overall, children younger than six years old make up nearly half of all poison exposures
- Adults aged 50 years and older have the lowest poison risk with fewer than 300 exposures per 100,000 adults in the age group
- There are more than 55,000 animal poison exposures each year
- Every 15 seconds, a poison exposure is reported to U.S. Poison Control Centers
The Top 14 Poison Hazards Hiding in Your Home
Think that silica gel pack in your new bag is harmless? Think again. These poison hazards are everyday items you probably have in your home.
- Medications and vitamins
- Cleaning and laundry supplies
- Cosmetics and personal care products
- Garage fluids (motor oil, gasoline, lighter fluid, antifreeze)
- Carbon monoxide
- Button batteries
- Toys, including magnets and glow sticks
- Silica gel packets
- Essential oils
Steps You Can Take to Reduce Risk of Poisoning at Home
Poisons are only dangerous if they’re used improperly. That means following label directions and keeping potential poisons out of reach of children, who may accidentally ingest them. Follow these precautions to keep your family safe from poisoning at home.
- Move all potential poisons out of reach, ideally in a locked cabinet: Prevent children from finding and getting into poisons by moving them out of their reach. If possible, poisonous products and medications should be stored in a locked cabinet. Don’t underestimate a child’s ability to climb!
- Put products away: Immediately after using a poisonous product, put it away out of reach.
- Store products in original containers: Original containers may have child safety features and will have important safety information on the label. Move products to food or drink containers, and children — even adults — may be confused and accidentally ingest the product.
- Store food and poisons separately: Avoid storing poisonous products or medications in the same area as food.
- Supervise poisonous product use: Keep children and products in your sight when using poisonous products. Be careful not to set them down and take care of another task, like taking a phone call or answering the door.
- Use ventilation: Fumes can be poisonous. Turn on fans and open windows to ventilate areas when using household cleaners and chemicals.
- Teach children about poisons: Moving poisons out of reach can only do so much. Some day, parents are bound to slip up and accidentally leave a cleaning product on a table, or grandma visits with pills in her purse. As soon as your child can understand, teach them about the dangers of poisons and how they should be avoided.
- Use child resistant packaging: Always opt for products and medications in child resistant packaging, but remember that nothing is childproof.
- Read labels: Be sure to read the labels of products and medications and follow their directions. Never mix products, as this can result in dangerous fumes.
- Don’t call medicine candy: Calling cough medicine, vitamins, or other medications candy can be dangerous, as children may find them appealing and want to take more without your supervision.
- Take medications away from children: Children may want to imitate adults who take medications, so always take medicines and vitamins where they aren’t watching.
- Do not share medications: Never share prescription medications and teach children and teens to only take prescription medications prescribed to them by healthcare professionals.
- Turn on lights when taking medications: Be sure that you’re taking the correct amount of the right medicine by turning on a light for better visibility.
- Throw away old poisons: Old products and medications should be safely discarded. Throw them away in a sealed outdoor trash receptacle.
- Encourage children to ask first: Teach children that they should ask an adult before they eat or drink anything.
- Install and maintain a carbon monoxide detector: Protect your family from the silent killer carbon monoxide with a working carbon monoxide detector. The best location for a carbon monoxide detector is near bedrooms and close to furnaces.
- Teach children about art supply safety: Some art products can be dangerous. Teach children not to eat them, and never eat or drink while using art products.
- Teach your family to avoid poisonous plants, mushrooms, and berries: Show your family how to identify poisonous mushrooms and plants, particularly poison ivy.
- Keep indoor plants out of reach: Some indoor plants may be poisonous, so they should be stored out of reach of children and pets.
- Never use carbon monoxide generating tools indoors: Gas generators, charcoal grills, and portable stoves should all be used outdoors where there is adequate ventilation.
- Check your home for lead paint: Lead paint dust can cause lead poisoning and may be present in homes built before 1978. Remove and replace paint in homes of this age, and be aware of the potential for lead in ceramics, toys, jewelry, lead water pipes, even soil. Do not allow children access to peeling paint or chewable surfaces painted with lead based paint. Avoid using cribs and other baby furniture made before 1978. Use a lead testing kit if you’re not sure about the lead content of a product or piece of furniture.
- Store purses and bags out of reach: All purses and bags, whether yours or your guests’, should be stored out of reach of children if they have potential poisons (like medications) in them.
- Don’t leave alcohol where children can find it: Avoid leaving alcoholic drinks unattended where children can find them and clean up promptly after parties.
- Discard old batteries: Throw away used button cell batteries and store unused ones out of the reach of children.
Know the Signs of Potential Poisoning
It’s smart to know the signs of potential poisoning, as a child or adult may encounter poisons without your knowledge. But remember, poisoning may have no outward symptoms, so if you suspect a loved one has been poisoned, don’t hesitate to get help.
- Unusual odor
- Sudden change in behavior
- Difficulty speaking
- Difficulty breathing
- Foaming or burning at the mouth
Resources for Learning More About Poison Proofing Your Home
Want more? These resources take an in depth look at preventing home poisonings.
- CDC: Poisoning Prevention: Find health and safety tips for poisoning prevention from the Centers for Disease Control.
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: Poison Proof Your Home: Find out what steps you can take to prevent poisoning in your home with this resource.
- HealthyChildren.org: Protect Your Child: Prevent Poisoning: The American Academy of Pediatrics offers child specific tips for preventing poisonings at home.
- Quills Up – Stay Away! A Poison Awareness Program: Spike the porcupine puppet teaches children how to avoid accidental poisonings with an adventure video, paper puppet, and other learning materials.
- ToxMystery: Toxie the Cat helps kids find the poison hazards in every toom of their home.
- VetStreet: Pet Poisons from A to Z: Pets can be poisoned, too. Use this resource to learn about 26 common household items that are dangerous to cats and dogs.
- Texas A&M: Common Poisonous Plants and Plant Parts: Learn about the most common poisonous plants, their toxic parts, and symptoms of poisoning with this resource.
Get Poison Help
If you suspect that you or a loved one has been poisoned, don’t wait to get help. You shouldn’t wait for symptoms to occur. Call the Poison Center and get help right away, even if you’re not sure. If the victim has collapsed or stopped breathing, call 911 right away. For other suspected poisons, call the Poison Control Hotline.
- Call Poison Control: The Poison Control Hotline is 1 (800) 222-1222. It’s a good idea to program this number on your phone. When you call, you’ll speak to a registered nurse or pharmacist who is a trained poison specialist. They provide expert medical guidance for poison emergencies 24 hours a day.
- webPoison Control: Get online help for swallowed substances in individuals who have no symptoms.
- Poison Control Pill Identifier: What’s the pill you just found? Did you get the wrong prescription? Use this online resource from Poison Control to identify pills and stay safe.