University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County Home and Community Resources


Your Home and Community
updated August 1, 2002


How to Prevent Poisonings In Your Home
submitted by Lorene Bartos, Extension Educator

June is National Safety Month. It is important to check our homes and take steps to make homes safe. As consumers, we buy more than a quarter of a million different household products that are used in and around the home for medication, cleaning, cosmetic purposes, exterminating insects, and killing weeds. These items are valuable in the home and for yard maintenance, but misuse, especially when products are used in inappropriate applications or quantities, can cause illness, injury and even death.

Each year more than 6,000 people die and an estimated 300,000 suffer disabling illnesses as a result of unintentional poisoning by solid and liquid substances. Unintentional poisonings can happen to anyone, at any time, in any situation.

Home unintentional poisonings, however, can be prevented. While child-resistant packaging has greatly reduced the number of fatalities among children under five years of age, parents, grandparents, and other caregivers must still be cautious. Following label directions for all products, including medication dosages, and proper storage of potentially toxic products are important precautions to heed.

You can keep yourself and family members safer by being aware of potential hazards and observing these suggestions from the National Safety Council on ways to poison-proof your home.


• Have a "child-proof" cabinet that locks.

• Use child-resistant caps and keep medication lids tightly closed.

• Some toilet bowl cleansers are dangerously caustic and capable of burning tissue if ingested.


• Mothballs and crystals should be hung in containers.

• Keep personal care items are such as hair spray, cologne, perfumes, nail polish remover, nail glue remover, and astringents where children can't get into them.

Living Room

• Children may be exposed to different lead sources in your home. Small children may chew on window sills, eat paint chips, or suck on their hands or toys, exposing themselves to lead dust. Lead poisoning can cause serious medical problems, especially in young children. Be sure your home is lead safe.


• Check under the sink and in cabinets. Look for stored products that could be hazardous when accessible to young children. These could include such items as bleaching agents, rust removers, drain cleaners, ammonia, oven cleaners, detergents, furniture polish, floor wax, metal polish, wax remover, and wall/floor/toilet bowl cleaners.

• Cleaning compounds and foods should never be stored together.

• Keep all substances in their original containers.

• Keep potentially hazardous cleaning compounds capped. Do not leave an uncapped contaner unattended even "just a minute" if toddlers are present.

Additional Precautions

• Keep the number of your local poison control center, 800-955-9119, (or national toll-free number, 800-222-1222) or family doctor posted near the telephone. Have the original container and its label when you call.

• Keep syrup of ipecac available but use only when instructed to by a doctor or poison control center.

• Use safety latches or combination locks to prevent curious children from getting into cabinets and drawers.

• Throw out unneeded or expired medicines.

Especially for Older Adults

• If one type of child-restraint closure is difficult to use, ask your pharmacist for a different kind.

• Consider a dedicated medicine storage area.

Pets are Susceptible, Too!

•Poisonous anti-freeze tastes sweet to dogs and cats - clean up spills and leaks immediately and store carefully.

• Don’t spray or store cleaning or pesticide products near pet food or water dishes.

• Make sure animals can't get at bait products while they are in use.

• Don’t forget about wildlife. Spraying products on a windy day can carry the product into the water supply for wild animals.

Take a few minutes and check your home for items that may make it unsafe and correct them.


The information on this site is available for educational purposes and is valid for southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area.

You are welcome to link to this site. Please credit the University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County, unless otherwise noted, when using any of the print or graphics materials. Read our confidentiality statement.

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