About medicines that can poison children
Almost all prescribed and over-the-counter medicines can be poisonous to children if children take too much or the medicines are misused.
How to avoid child poisoning from medicines
Poisoning often happens when medicine is left within reach.
The best way to avoid poisoning from medicines is to never leave medicines where children can get them. And it’s essential to lock medicines away in a child-resistant cupboard when you’re not using them.
If you think a child in your care has been poisoned, stay calm. Gather what’s left of the substance the child swallowed, take it or its packaging 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.
Safety precautions for medicines
These safety precautions can help you keep your child safe from poisoning from medicines:
- Leave all medicines in their original containers.
- If your child needs to take medicine, read the label, dosage and instructions carefully. Double-check everything before you give your child the medicine. Set up a ‘checking system’ with your partner to avoid giving your child double doses of medicine. If you’re not sure about how much medicine to give or for how long, ask your doctor or pharmacist.
- Avoid distractions when giving your child medicines. If possible, have a normal routine for giving or taking medicines. And always supervise your child while your child is taking medicine.
- Ask your pharmacist to put child-resistant caps on your medicines if they’re not already on the bottle. This makes it harder for children to open bottles. Make sure you always put the caps back on the bottles immediately and correctly after use.
- Clean out your medicine cupboard regularly. Get rid of unwanted and out-of-date medicines. You can also return unwanted medicines to your local pharmacist for safe disposal.
- Rinse empty medicine containers with water before you throw them out.
- Refer to medicines by their proper names, rather than calling them ‘special lollies’.
- Keep visitors’ bags away from your child’s reach, because bags can contain medicine.
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.
All these medicines can harm and even kill your child:
- cold and flu medications
- diabetes medications
- essential oils like eucalyptus and tea tree oil
- gout and arthritis medications
- heart and blood pressure medications
- iron tablets
- morphine and other strong painkillers
- nicotine patches and other quit smoking treatments
- sleeping tablets.