Poison prevention

Unintentional Poisoning

Medication is the leading cause of poisoning in children. Even small amounts of adult medication can be fatal to your child. Other causes of poisoning are household cleaners and personal care products, such as mouthwash or nail polish. Many children have swallowed poisonous products that were not stored properly or were taken out of their original container.

The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates an average of three deaths each year in Canada among children aged 14 years and younger from unintentional poisoning and another 900 are hospitilized with serious injuries.

Keep laundry detergents, including single-unit dose packets, secured and out of reach of children. Like many other household products, detergents must be used as directed, and safely and properly stored. Follow #PreventPoison for information and resources or visit Health Canada

A Canadian Paediatrics Society study of injuries associated with liquid detergent packets treated by paediatricians gathered information on 54 children with injuries following exposure. The study found that more than half of these children 56% were less than two years of age and another 43% were aged 2-4 years.

Many children have swallowed poisonous products that were not stored properly or were taken out of their original container. 

For more information on unintentional poisoning and for tips on how to prevent them, you can also visit Health Canada and the Canadian Association of Poison Control Centres.

​Make your home a poison-free zone

Girl standing by the kitchen door

Keep all potential poisons locked up and out of reach of children. As your child grows, he becomes increasingly active and can more easily reach and open cabinets. Medicines, cleaning products and other poisons need to be locked in a place high up and out of your child's reach.

  • Keep all potential poisons locked up and out of reach of children.
  • Store poisons in a cabinet that is high up and can be locked using a lock or latch that cannot be opened by a child.
  • Place all medications in a locked box and put it in a place that is high up and out of your child's reach.


Keep all medication in original child-resistant packaging. Young children put things in their mouths. Child-resistant packaging is required by law for certain medications. It reduces the chance of your child being poisoned. However a small percentage of children are still able to open medication containers. It is best to use medicine containers that contain small doses.

Never refer to medicine as candy. Be extra careful with medicines that may taste good to your child, such as chewable vitamins and fruit-flavoured syrups. Children learn by touching, tasting and by imitating others.

Always read the label and check the dosage each time you give or take medicine. Keep products in their original container, to help you remember the medication and the dosage.

When visitors come to your home, make sure they keep their purses, bags, etc. out of your child's reach. Visitors may have unsafe and dangerous products with them. Keep their belongings out of your child's reach just as you do your own.

In and around the home

  • Keep pesticides in their original containers and store them in a cool dry place out of your child's reach.
  • Know all plants in and around your home and garden.
  • Label each plant in your home with the specific name (e.g. Devil's ivy vs. just ivy)
  • Keep all houseplants, seeds, and bulbs out of reach of children.
  • Teach children never to put leaves, flowers, seeds, nuts, or berries in their mouths without first checking with an adult.
  • Never eat wild mushrooms or unfamiliar wild berries. Many poisonous mushrooms look like mushrooms that are safe to eat.
  • Store household cleaners, like oven cleaner and bleach; car supplies, such as windshield washer fluid; cosmetics, like nail polish remover; and pesticides, in locked cupboards or drawers – a child safety latch is an acceptable alternative.
  • Antifreeze and windshield washer fluids are very poisonous. Even small amounts of these can cause serious injury.

Keep the number of your local poison control centre number near the phone. In the event that your child is potentially poisoned, contact you regional poison information centre. If your province or territory does not have a poison control centre, dial 911.

Related links

Canadian Association of Poison Control Centres
Stay Safe - An educational program about hazard symbols


Webinar on Poison Prevention - June 23, 2015

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