Preventing poisoning in children

The most common form of poisoning in the UK is from medication.

The advice below should reduce the risk of accidental poisoning by medication:

  • Always carefully read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medication and take the exact dose recommended.
  • If you're unsure about any of the instructions or have further questions, ask your pharmacist or GP for advice.
  • Some medications shouldn't be taken with alcohol or certain types of food. Check if this is the case for your medication.
  • Some medications can react unpredictably if taken with other medications, including herbal remedies. Always check before combining different medications.
  • Never take a medication that's been prescribed for someone else.
  • Keep all medication out of reach of children.

Keeping children safe

Children under five years of age have a particularly high risk of poisoning. The advice below should reduce the risk for your children:

  • Make sure all medicines, cleaning products, chemicals and potentially harmful cosmetics, such as nail varnish, are locked away out of the sight and out of reach of children.
  • Don't store medicines, cleaning products or chemicals near food.
  • Keep all chemicals in their original containers and never put medicines or chemicals, such as weedkiller, in soft drinks bottles.
  • When encouraging children to take medicine (when they're sick), don't refer to tablets as sweets.
  • Don't leave old medicines lying around – take them to your local pharmacist to dispose of safely.
  • Keep cigarettes and tobacco out of the reach of children and don't smoke in front of children.
  • Small batteries, such as those used for television remote controls, can be easily swallowed, so keep them out of the reach of children.
  • Whenever possible, buy medicines that come in child-resistant containers.
  • Rinse out medicine or cosmetic containers and dispose of them in a place where children can't reach them.
  • Don't take or give medicines in the dark, to avoid taking an incorrect dosage.

If you have young children, be extra careful when you have guests to stay or when you go to visit other people. If your friends and relatives don't have children, they may not keep certain items out of reach and their home is unlikely to be childproof.

Keep an eye on your children at all times and politely ask guests to keep items such as alcohol and cigarettes out of their reach.

Read more about preventing accidents to children in the home.

Further information

For more information about preventing specific types of poisoning see: