June 14, 2017

Preventing Poisonings in the Home

According to the NSW Poisons Information Centre, at least 5,000 children are hospitalised each year due to household medicine poisonings. Although there are several causes of accidental poisonings in and around the home, medicines are one of the largest contributors. The majority around (37%) of children, hospitalised due to medicine poisoning is linked to swallowing common non-opioid analgesics like ibuprofen.

Other ‘culprit’ products around the home include eucalyptus and other essential oils, batteries, laundry products and cleaning products. The reality is, young kids are curious little beings, and they tend to touch and taste products that accidentally end up in their small hands.

Here are some simple steps to help keep your kids safe and prevent accidental poisonings occurring in the home:

Store medicines and poisons out of sight and reach from children, preferably at 1.5 metres above the ground and secured with a lock or in child resistant container

Read the label carefully before using medicines or poisons to ensure that it’s used properly and safely

Supervise children and never leave them within reach of medication or poisons

Educate and warn children about the dangers of consuming medicines or poisons without your supervision

Remove all unwanted and expired medicines and poisons from the household and dispose them safely

Community pharmacies throughout Australia are equipped to safely dispose any unwanted and expired household medications. This is part of a free nation-wide service called Return Unwanted Medicines (or the RUM Project).

Review your home medicine area and read your medicine labels. Remove all your expired and unwanted medicines from their packaging, placing them in a bag and container. Finally, return your unwanted medicines to your local pharmacy. Your pharmacist will put them in a secure bin for safe disposal.

Each returned medicine is one less medicine in your household, lowering the risk of accidental poisonings that occur.

The Return of Unwanted Medicines Project is a free service that offers a way to dispose of unwanted or expired medicines safely and conveniently at your local community pharmacy. Find out more about the service here.


Analysis of consumer product related calls to the NSW Poisons Information Centre, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission. 2016

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Poisoning in children and young people 2012-13, Injury Research and Statistic Series, no. 97, 2016.

Poisons Fact Sheet, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick and Kaleidoscope Children, Young People and Families. 2015.

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