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Medicines are the most common cause of poisoning in young children. Most medicines can harm children if taken in large enough quantities, and some can even kill. The best way to protect your child is to store all medicines out of reach and out of sight in a cabinet or cupboard with a child-resistant lock.

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Kids aged four years and under are most at risk of accidentally poisoning themselves with medicine.

 

Avoiding poisoning: safety precautions for medicines

Poisoning often occurs when medicine is left within reach, so all family members must avoid leaving medicines where children can get them. Make sure medicines are locked away when not in use.

Leave all medicines in their original containers and follow the directions on the label. Put all medicines away immediately after use.

Visitors’ bags can also contain medicines, so keep bags away from your child’s reach.

It’s also important to take care when visiting older people. They might not be used to having children around and might leave medicine within easy reach. Check to make sure your child can’t get to their medicines.

If a child in your care might have been poisoned, stay calm. Gather what’s left of what the child swallowed, take the medicine and the child to the phone, and immediately call the Poisons Information Centre on 131 126 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week, Australia wide). Don’t treat the poisoning until you’ve got correct advice from the Poisons Information Centre.

Dangerous medicines

All these medicines can harm and even kill your child:

  • morphine and other strong painkillers
  • paracetamol
  • antihistamines
  • anticonvulsants
  • antidepressants
  • heart and blood pressure medication
  • nicotine patches and other quit smoking treatments
  • sleeping tablets
  • diabetes medications
  • essential oils, such as eucalyptus and tea tree oil
  • iron tablets
  • gout and arthritis medications
  • cold and flu medications.
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  • Last Updated 08-09-2014
  • Last Reviewed 03-07-2014
  • Ashby, K., & Routley, V. (1996). Childhood domestic chemical and plant poisonings. Hazard, 28, 1-16.

    Ozdemir, R., Bayrakci, B., Teksam, O., Yalcin, B., & Kale, G. (2012). Thirty-three year experience on childhood poisoning. Turkish Journal of Pediatrics54(3), 251-259.

    Rosenberg, M., Wood, L., Leeds, M., & Wicks, S. (2011). ’But they can’t reach that high ...’: Parental perceptions and knowledge relating to childhood poisoning. Health Promotion Journal of Australia: Official Journal of Australian Association of Health Promotion Professionals, 22(3), 217-222.

    Routley, V., Ozanne-Smith, J., & Ashby, K. (1996). Poisonings in early childhood. Hazard, 27, 1-16.

    Victorian Injury Surveillance System (1989). Drug safety and poison control. Hazard, 4, 1-9.