In this section
Poisoning can happen to anyone, anywhere, but children are particularly at risk as they enjoy exploring and putting things in their mouth as part of their normal development. Poisoning is most common in children aged five years and under, with those aged between one and three years at greatest
Parents and caregivers are often surprised just how many potentially poisonous substances they have at home and the speed with which their child can touch, inhale or ingest something.
You can reduce the risk of accidental poisoning by securely storing and safely using medications and poisonous substances.
Death from poisoning is rare, but poisoning will require emergency treatment and hospital admission in severe cases.
Any household product or medicine used incorrectly can be a poison. Poisons include:
Poisoning can occur if the substance is swallowed, inhaled, spilt on the skin, splashed into the eye or injected.
Call an ambulance immediately if your child collapses, stops breathing or has difficulty breathing, or is having a fit.
If you suspect a child has been exposed to poison, do not try to induce vomiting. Do not wait for symptoms to occur. Take the child and the container with you to the phone immediately and call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 (24 hours a day in Australia). They will be able
to give you first aid advice. It is helpful to know what the substance was and how much of the substance was taken.
Do not ring the Poisons Information Centre in a medical emergency.
Where can I buy suitable child-resistant locks and latches
There are many products available in hardware stores, department stores (e.g. Big W, Target, Baby Bunting, Bunnings) and online that help make your home safer for your baby, toddler or child. It’s a good idea to take a look around your home from your child’s perspective – get down low for crawling
babies, and look at what a toddler or older child might be able to access. Choose products that will help secure the spots you want to make safe.
My child had a cleaning chemical spill on their skin, but
they didn’t swallow any. What should I do? Do I still call the poisons centre?
Yes, you should call the Poisons Information Centre (13 11 26) as they will be able to give you the correct first aid advice. Chemical poisoning can occur from touching the skin, as well as from being swallowed.
Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Community Information. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.
Reviewed October 2018.
Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit
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.