Poisoning Prevention, Children Ages Birth to 19 years

In New York State, for children ages one to 19 years, unintentional poisoning deaths are the second leading cause of death because of unintentional injury, second only to motor vehicle crashes. Most poisoning deaths are attributed to drugs, including prescription and over-the-counter medications. Also, almost 7,000 children ages 19 years and younger are treated in a hospital for unintentional poisoning each year, making it a significant cause for hospital emergency room visits and hospitalizations in New York.

Children under age five are at particular risk for poisoning from drugs (prescription and over-the-counter), household cleaning products, paints, varnishes and gasoline, alcohol ingestion, lead poisoning, cosmetics, and carbon monoxide. Of growing concern in the United States is the increased use of prescription drugs taken by young teens, in particular drugs from the opioid family. These drugs are known as "painkillers" and include oxycodone, fentanyl and methadone. Many teens use prescription drugs for non-medical reasons (e.g., recreationally or to get "high"). Also, children may inhale substances that may cause poisoning, such as glue.

The good news is that you, as a parent or caregiver, can play a major role in preventing poisonings.

Who should I call if I suspect a poisoning has occurred?

The toll-free telephone number for poison control centers is: (800) 222-1222. It is important to give as much information as possible concerning the substance, the amount taken if known and condition of the person. It is better to be safe, if in doubt seek medical attention immediately.

Should I make my child throw up or use Ipecac Syrup to induce vomiting?

It is no longer recommended that Ipecac Syrup be used or that vomiting be induced.

How can I keep my child safe from poisoning at home?

  • Keep medicines and chemical products in their original containers.
  • Keep household products and poisonous plants out of children's reach.
  • Return products to childproof cabinets when finished using them.
  • Store household cleaning products away from food.
  • Make sure children do not have access to peeling paint or chewable surfaces painted with lead-based paint.
  • Keep children's hands and toys clean.
  • Keep purses and briefcases that may contain medications or cosmetics out of reach of children.
  • Keep alcohol out of reach in a locked cabinet.

What are some safety tips concerning medications?

  • Always keep medicine out of the reach of young children and do not leave doses of medications on countertops or anywhere else where children can easily reach them.
  • Keep medications in a locked cabinet.
  • Avoid taking medications in front of children as they often copy adult behavior.
  • Never refer to medication as "candy".
  • Keep purses and briefcases that may contain medications out of reach of children
  • Make sure you are informed about the administration of cold and cough medicine for children since instructions for these medications have changed.
  • Give medications only as prescribed or directed and never give prescription medication to anyone other than the person for whom the medication is prescribed.
  • Make sure children ages 15 to 19 years are not using prescription drugs for non-medical reasons.

Where can I find more information about preventing unintentional poisoning?