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Hazardous medicines

  • Some medications are ‘hazardous’ meaning that special care is needed when preparing and handling them to reduce the chance of side effects for the person giving the medicine. 

    What is a hazardous medicine?

    Sometimes medicines can have side effects and your doctor or pharmacist will discuss these with you when you start the medicine.

    Hazardous medicines also have a small risk of side effects for the person giving the medicine, especially if they give the medicine often and for a long time such as healthcare workers.

    Parents and carers who give hazardous medicines at home have a very low risk of side effects.

    Giving your child a hazardous medicine

    You may notice that healthcare workers wear gloves, gowns, goggles or masks when preparing these medicines in hospital. This is because they make up lots of medicines for many patients over a long period of time.

    At home, we recommend:

    • Using disposable gloves when touching the medicine
    • Wash your hands with soap and water after giving the medicine
    • Wash oral syringes and medicine cups after use and don’t use them for other medicines or other family members

    What if I spill a hazardous medicine at home?

    • Wear a pair of disposable gloves
    • Cover the spill with disposable cloths or paper towels and wipe up the spill
    • Wash the area with soapy water
    • Put the used gloves and disposable cloths or paper towels in a plastic bag, tie it up and take it to the bin outside 

    General medicine advice

    • Store all medicines out of children’s reach (at least 1.5 metres off the ground) and always keep medicine in the container or box that it came in
    • Return any leftover medicine to your local pharmacy for disposal

    Common questions we are asked

    Are hazardous medicines dangerous?
    All medicines can have side effects, your doctor will discuss how the medicine will help your child and the side effects that may happen. 

    Hazardous medicines also have a small risk of side effects for the person giving the medicine, especially if they give the medicine often and for a long time.

    What if I am pregnant or planning a pregnancy and I need to give my child a hazardous medicine?
    Speak to your doctor or pharmacist for more information. They may recommend extra protection when giving some medicines.

    Why is my child’s medicine hazardous now, it was not hazardous before?
    Information about medicines is being updated all the time and sometimes the advice can change.

    How do I know if my child is taking a hazardous medicine?
    Your doctor, pharmacist or nurse may tell you to take care with handling the medicine. Sometimes medicines have a special label like the one shown below.  

    Special handling and disposal

    For more information on Hazardous Medicines, please contact Medicines Information on (03) 9345 5208


This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.