Prevent Poisoning Accidents for Children in your Home

Posted by Injury Lawyers of Ontario on May 25, 2017

Accidents involving poisoning of children are far more common than most Canadians realize and the rate of fatalities has been rising since 1990, according to the Ontario Medical Association.  For children four years old and under, unintentional poisoning by over-the-counter and prescription medications is the second most common cause of hospitalization.  The rate of injury for children due to poisoning is disturbingly high, but the good news is that these incidents are entirely preventable if precautions are taken.

About 86 per cent of all hospitalisations and deaths for children caused by unintentional poisoning are for children under five.  According to Safe Kids Canada, medications cause most of these injuries and deaths (i.e. 67 per cent), far more than are caused by toxic household substances.

Strategies to prevent poisoning accidents

  • Every medication, including over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol, should be kept in a locked cabinet.  For very young and small children, only one pill can result in serious injury.  Even vitamin supplements can be harmful, particularly if consumed in large quantities.  Iron pills, for example, can result in damage to the kidneys, liver, heart and lungs.
  • Always put your medications away immediately after taking them.
  • Leave medications in their original child-resistant containers or packaging.
  • When travelling, keep any medications in a properly closed bag, where curious children will not see or find them.
  • Use the least hazardous substance possible for every purpose, if you have young children in the home.  Vinegar and simple dish detergent can do an adequate job of cleaning most surfaces.
  • Keep any toxic substances, including cleaning agents, in cupboards far out of reach of children or even better, in a locked cupboard.
  • Never leave a hazardous or poisonous product unattended, even for a minute.
  • Keep plants out of reach of children, and consider getting rid of plants that can make children sick, if ingested.
  • Purchase containers with child-proof lids and never transfer toxic products into food or other containers.
  • Keep the poison control phone number handy
  • Talk to your children about the dangers of eating anything that is not clearly a food item, and never call drugs ‘candy’
  • Read product labels for the applicable first-aid instructions
  • If young children are visiting your home, ensure that they are always supervised, particularly if you are not already practicing the above safety measures for potentially dangerous products.

Anyone would be devastated to find that they may have contributed to a poisoning accident in their home, but as well as a potentially injurious outcome for a child, a homeowner can be held liable under the Occupiers' Liability Act if they failed to act reasonably in terms of keeping anyone coming onto their property safe. 

In addition to medications, the following common products can be a cause of poisoning (

  • Bleach, detergent, furniture polish toilet bowl cleaners, and most other cleaning products
  • Cosmetics, particularly perfumes and nail care products
  • Batteries and mothballs
  • Glue and other arts-and-crafts products
  • Garden products, particularly herbicides and insecticides
  • Paint products, turpentine, kerosene, lighter fluid
  • Antifreeze and windshield washer fluid

Additional valuable information about poisoning injuries and prevention is available through the Ontario Medical Association and Parachute Canada.  Remember that a poisoning accident can occur in the blink of an eye, but we can prevent these accidents in our home through simple planning and prudent measures to keep children safe.




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