Poison Prevention: In the Home

Young children can be exposed to a variety of poisonous products in the home. Poisonings often happen when a doorbell, telephone or child distracts you while you are using a potentially dangerous product.

To help your family react quickly to a poisoning, put the NYC Poison Control Center telephone number — 212-POISONS (212-764-7667) — on all telephones in your home and in your cell phone.

Common Poisoning Concerns at Home

  • Batteries. Button batteries are extremely dangerous if ingested by a child. Be sure that items containing lithium batteries are out of reach from children. Such items include remote controls, greeting cards, toys and decorations.
  • Camphor (Alcanfor). Camphor comes in many forms, but it is most often sold as blocks. Ingesting camphor or absorbing it on the skin may be dangerous and could lead to health problems, such as seizures. Dangerous exposures often happen when camphor blocks are placed under the crib or in bedding, or when too much is rubbed on the body.
  • Cosmetics and personal care products. These include common products, such as hand soap, shampoo and toothpaste.
  • E-Cigarettes and liquid nicotine. Exposure to cigarettes, e-cigarettes and other products containing nicotine can lead to serious health conditions. E-cigarettes often contain a greater concentration of nicotine than other tobacco products on the market. These products may be marketed with flavors that are attractive to children and teens.
  • Household cleaners. Common products include bleach, ammonia and detergent. A common poisoning exposure happens when ammonia and bleach are mixed together, creating a poisonous gas. Choose safer cleaning products.
  • Lamp oil and furniture oil. Hydrocarbons such as these are extremely dangerous when ingested. Colored lamp oils can be especially appealing to children.
  • Laundry detergent pods and packets. These small packets are colorful and soft. Children may think they are candy and put them in their mouths.
  • Medicine. Common prescription and non-prescription pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, and cold medicines can be poisonous when taken or given improperly.
  • Pesticides. Some of the most common household pesticides (insecticides, rodenticides) are used to kill roaches, ants, fleas, rats and mice. If you use these products in or around the home, be sure to keep them out of reach of children. They can be dangerous when ingested or when they contact the skin. Do not use illegal pesticides.
  • Silica packets. These are often found in shoe boxes or new clothing pockets with “Do Not Eat” labels. They are usually nontoxic, but they can pose a choking risk for children.
  • Topical products. Diaper rash cream and petroleum jelly are rarely a problem, but they should not be within a baby’s grabbing distance. Talcum powder is more dangerous and is no longer recommended for use when changing a baby's diaper.
  • Vitamins. These are often kept on the kitchen table and may be appealing to children.

How to Poison-Proof Your Home

The following steps will help you keep your home safe:

  • Identify potential poisons inside your home and around the area.
  • Keep poisons up high and out of reach of children.
  • Keep products in their original container with the label intact.
  • Never store poisons in a food or beverage container.
  • Use child-resistant containers. Be sure they are closed properly.
  • Dispose of medicine safely.

Once you have taken the above steps, review the Poison Lookout Checklist (PDF) to make sure your home is poison-proof.

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