Poisons Prevention

Childhood poisoning

Across Australia unintentional poisoning is the second largest reason for Hospital admission in young children under 5 years of age. Nationally, there were 998 serious cases of poisoning by pharmaceuticals that required Hospital admission in this age group during 2011–12. 73% of all cases occur at home. The average Hospital stay length for pharmaceutical poisoning is 1.2 days and for other substances is 1.9 days.

Why are children at risk?

Most children are walking by 14 months of age and are exploring their world. Young children don’t always recognise or understand that something is dangerous. They are curious and will put anything in their mouth; they also like to copy others. This is why it’s important for adults to keep them safe and ensure the environment is free from potential poisons.

What are the most common causes of poisoning in young children?

Common medicines:

•sleeping tablets
•Cough and cold remedies
•Dietary supplements
•Anti-inflammatory drugs
•Oral contraceptive pills
•Various heart medications

Poisoning in and around the home:

•Alcohol, cigarettes (tobacco and nicotine)
•Cleaning products – bleach, toilet bowl cleaners, disinfectant,
detergents, dishwasher powder and capsules etc.
•Perfume and nail polish remover
•Some novelty toys, such as glow sticks
•Hand sanitiser (particularly alcohol-based)
•Silica gel
•Poisonous plants
•Illicit drugs: cannabis, cocaine etc.


What to do if your child swallows something poisonous

If your child swallows something poisonous, even if you think they may have, or if the wrong medication or dose has been administered to a child:

  • Do not make them vomit
  • Pick up the container and the child, take them to the phone and ring the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 (Australia wide, 24 hours a day).
  • If urgent call 000 and ask for an ambulance immediately and then call the Poisons Information Centre – 13 11 26

1. AIHW: Pointer S 2014. Hospitalised injury in children and young people 2011–12. Injury research and statistics series no. 91. Cat. no. INJCAT 167. Canberra: AIHW.

2. Tovell A, McKenna K, Bradley C & Pointer S 2012. Hospital separations due to injury and poisoning, Australia 2009–10. Injury research and statistics series no. 69. Cat. no. INJCAT 145. Canberra: AIHW.

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