Poison risks to your child

Poisoning is most likely to happen to children aged 1 to 4 years.

Most incidents take place in the child’s home, the home of a grandparent or a childminder, or at a crèche or school.

Lots of ordinary household products can be poisonous.

Types of poison include:

  • medicines
  • herbal, iron and vitamin tablets and supplements
  • household cleaning products, chemicals and detergents
  • laundry and dishwasher tablets or pods
  • garden products, such as weed killer
  • farming and industrial chemicals
  • hygiene products and cosmetics, such as deodorant, shaving foam and nail polish
  • batteries, including button cell batteries
  • carbon monoxide
  • natural toxins such as venom from wasps and certain snakes
  • plants and poisonous mushrooms
  • room fresheners including liquid reed diffusers
  • essential oils
  • contents of syringes and needles
  • alcohol — even very small amounts of alcohol can be harmful to small children
  • e-cigarettes and cigarettes
  • fire lighters
  • mercury thermometers

You can reduce the risk of poisoning by keeping products out of your child's reach and sight.

Teach children to ask the adult minding them if something is safe to eat or drink. But do not expect them to do this.

Medicines and vitamins

Keep all medicines and vitamin supplements in original containers. Lock them in an overhead medicine cabinet or high cupboard.

Don't use the word 'sweets’ when talking about medicines or vitamins. Do not take medicines in front of children. This is because children will often copy adults.

Be careful when your child is in another person's home as there may be medicines within reach.

Follow instructions on medicine labels carefully. If you need to, talk to your GP or pharmacy about your medicine or medicine instructions. Return old and unused medicines to your pharmacist.

Keep unused needles and syringes locked away. Dispose of them safely and immediately after use.

Cleaning products

Cleaning products can poison your child and cause skin reactions and burn injuries.

These include things like:

  • washing machine and dishwasher liquids, powders, tablets, pods and capsules
  • bleach and bleach products
  • washing up liquid
  • surface cleaners
  • hob cleaners
  • oven cleaners
  • sink cleaners
  • floor cleaners
  • floor and furniture polish
  • bathroom cleaning products

Laundry and dishwasher tablets, capsules and pods are often attractive to children. This is due to their bright colours and interesting texture. They should only be handled by adults. Store them out of your child's sight and reach.

Hygiene products and cosmetics

Keep the following out of your child's sight and reach:

  • perfumes
  • deodorants
  • cosmetics — this includes fake tan and make-up
  • creams
  • shaving foam — do not use it for 'messy play'
  • shampoo
  • shower gel
  • mouthwash
  • toothpaste
  • hand gels
  • baby wipes and cosmetic wipes


Keep all remote controls and spare or used batteries out of your child's sight and reach.

Make sure all battery compartments on toys and other items are secure and can’t be opened by your child.

Button batteries

Button batteries are small circular-shaped batteries. They are found in toys, remote controls, calculators and small electronic devices.

They are a choking risk for your child. If your child does swallow a button battery it could seriously burn their insides.

All types pose a risk, but lithium button batteries are the most dangerous. Lithium batteries react with saliva so that they leak corrosive chemicals.


If you think your child has swallowed a button battery, go to hospital immediately

Be extra careful with things that don't have locked battery compartments. These include musical greeting cards, flameless candles and remote controls.

Button batteries
Button batteries

Carbon monoxide

Carbon monoxide is produced when any fuel is burned. This includes oil, coal, wood, gas and turf.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur from the following:

  • faulty, damaged or badly installed heating appliances
  • heating appliances not maintained, serviced or used properly
  • rooms not properly ventilated
  • blocked chimneys or flues
  • using a barbecue grill or outdoor heater indoors
  • any type of property alterations or home improvements that reduce ventilation
  • running engines in garages or sheds
  • using cooking appliances for heating purposes

You can't see, taste or smell carbon monoxide. Make sure you have working carbon monoxide alarms in every room in your home.

If you rent your home, check that your landlord has installed one.

Alcohol and cigarettes

Lock alcohol and cigarettes away out of sight and reach. Even small amounts of alcohol can be harmful to children.

Empty ashtrays and make sure you throw cigarette butts away. They have enough nicotine in them to be toxic to babies and small children.

Other products containing nicotine can harm children. These include gum, sprays, pastilles and patches. Always keep these products out of sight and reach of children.


Don't leave e-cigarettes or their refills in reach or sight of children. E-cigarettes also contain nicotine.

If your child swallows any of the liquid in an e-cigarette, take them to your nearest hospital emergency department (A&E).


Certain plants can be poisonous. Flowers and berries can also be attractive to children, who may want to put them in their mouth.

Get rid of any fungi or mushrooms growing in your garden. Remove access to poisonous plants.

Get advice from staff in your garden centre when buying plants.

Keep plant food, weed killer, slug pellets and other products locked away. Always keep them in their original containers.

Giant hogweed

The giant hogweed plant is found in grassy or waste land, especially near water. Keep your child away from giant hogweed. Even slight contact with this plant can cause serious skin irritation.

Giant hogweed plant
Giant hogweed plant

Mercury thermometers

Never use a mercury thermometer to take your child's temperature. They can break, exposing your child to glass splinters and mercury. Mercury is very poisonous.

New medical thermometers for taking a person's temperature don't contain mercury. But you may still have an older one in your home.

You may also have room or outdoor thermometers that have mercury in them.

Remove any mercury thermometers from your home.

Page last reviewed: 16 June 2019
Next review due: 16 June 2022