LSCBLocal Safeguarding Children Board Northamptonshire

Accidental Poisoning

Every year in Northamptonshire, around 230 children aged 5 years old or under are admitted to A&E after accidentally swallowing a poisonous substance.

In the UK, over 28,000 children per year receive treatment for poisoning or suspected poisoning.

Most poisoning injuries involve medicines, household products and cosmetics. The most commonly swallowed harmful substances are: 

  • Calpol or Nurofen - don't be fooled by 'child resistant' tops, many 3 or 4 year olds are capable of opening them
  • Painkillers, blood pressure tablets or prescription medicines belonging to parents or grandparents
  • Karvol or other decongestant medicines
  • Household cleaning products, brightly coloured liquid tablets for washing machines and dishwashers, toilet blocks
  • Weedkillers, turps
  • Room fragrances, cigarettes and cosmetics

Safety checks

Walk around your home, looking at it from a child's perspective and see what substances are within reach.

  • Keep anything that may be poisonous out of reach, preferably in a locked cupboard - this includes all medicines and pills, household cleaners and garden products.
  • Keep cleaning products like bleach, toilet cleaner etc locked away, don't leave them in the bathroom. You can check how to keep your house safe on RoSPA's website.
  • Use containers with child-resistant tops - but be aware that by three years of age, many children are able to open child-resistant tops, although it may take them a little longer.
  • Keep all dangerous chemicals in their original containers - for example, don't store weedkiller in an old drinks bottle because a young child may mistake it for something safe to drink.
  • Dispose of unwanted medicines - take them to your local chemist who can dispose of them safely for your.
  • Dispose of unwanted chemicals carefully

In the garden and outside:

Some common garden plants have parts such as seedpods, berries and leaves that are poisonous and can be fatal.

This includes 'ordinary' plants like Cherry Laurel (often used as a hedge), Laburnam trees (bright yellow hanging flowers in spring), foxgloves, lilies and many more.

Wild mushrooms and fungi should never be eaten - many are poisonous and look very similar to edible fungi. 

  • Teach your children not to eat any part of any plant or fungi when outside. 
  • If you're worried that the plants in your garden could be poisonous, you can check the Royal Horticultural Society's poisonous plants list. 
  • Keep your garden shed locked and weed killer, slug killer, pesticides and other chemicals out of reach. 

Download the safety leaflet

If you have young children at home, download and print out the leaflet below, stick it to your fridge as a reminder to regularly check that dangerous substances are out of reach and locked away.

Last updated: 17 June 2024

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