Skip Ribbon Commands Skip to main content
News & Resources Safety at Work Safety at Home Safety on the Road Products & Training NSC Congress & Expo Find NSC Near You
      NSC HOME > Safety at Home > Home and Recreational Safety > Poisoning      


More than 60,000 young children visit emergency rooms each year because of medication poisonings.

Unintentional poisoning includes the unsupervised ingestion of drugs or chemicals, "overdoses" or the excessive use of a drug  and exposure to environmental substances.

The most common poisons include prescription and over-the-counter medications, cleaning products and personal care products. Eighty percent of incidents occur when a child eats or swallows over-the-counter and prescription medicines when an adult wasn't watching.

Children are poisoned by pills or liquid medicine left unattended on countertops and tables, loose in purses or found on the floor. In 2008, poison control centers reported receiving calls about 2.5 million human poison exposure cases.

Protect your children

  • Store medicines and vitamins up and away, out of reach and out of sight of young children. Find a place in your home that is too high for children to reach or see. Walk around your house and decide on the safest place to keep your medicines and vitamins. For more information on medicine storage, visit our Up and Away Resources Page.
  • Put medicines and vitamins away every time you use it. This includes medicines and vitamins you use every day. Never leave them out on a kitchen counter or at a sick child’s bedside, even if you have to give the medicine again in a few hours.
  • Tell your children what medicine is and why you must be the one to give it to them. Never tell children medicine is candy to get them to take it, even if your child does not like to take his or her medicine.
  • Listen for the click to make sure the safety cap is locked.  Remember, even though many medicines and vitamins have safety caps, children may be able to open them.
  • Ask houseguests and visitors to keep purses, bags or coats that have medicines in them up and away and out of sight when they are in your home.
  • Put the poison control number, 1-800-222-1222, on or near every home telephone and save it on your cell phone.

Learn how to prevent medicine dosing errors

Parents are more likely to make mistakes when giving medicines to infants and toddlers than to older children. For example, half of the mistakes leading to emergency room visits from cough and cold medicines occur when giving medicines to infants and toddlers.

  • Read all of the information on the package label and follow the directions. Do not give a child medicine more often or in greater amounts than is stated on the package.
  • Use only the measuring device (dropper, dosing cup or dosing spoon) that is included with the product. Do not use a kitchen teaspoon or tablespoon for giving medicines to children. If a measuring device is not included with the product, purchase one at a pharmacy or ask for one from your pharmacist.
  • Check the "active ingredients" in prescription and over-the-counter medicines. Make sure that you do not give your child two medicines that have the same "active ingredient." If you have questions ask your doctor or pharmacist.
  • If you do not understand the instructions on the label, or how to use the dosing device, do not use the medicine. Talk to your pharmacist or doctor if you have questions or are confused.








Always use the cup, syringe, or other dosage device that comes with a medicine. This will help you give your child the right amount of medicine. A kitchen spoon or some other device could hold the wrong amount. Find more information in FDA Consumer Updates



Poisoning Emergencies 

Call your poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 right away if you think your child might have gotten into a medicine or vitamin.

Program the number into your home and cell phones so you will have it when you need it.

Become trained in first aid and CPR with AED online or in a classroom. Ideally, at least one person in each household should have these lifesaving skills.



Visit our Up and Away Resources Page for more tools to tell children and guests what they need to know about medicine safety.

The National Safety Council is a proud partner of the Up and Away and Out of Sight educational program, part of CDC’s PROTECT Initiative.

  CONTACT US: 1121 Spring Lake Drive Itasca, IL 60143-3201     1-800-621-7615  
Disclaimer & Privacy Policy      About Us      Careers      Sitemap      Contact Us     
Instant SSL Certificate Secure Site

McAfee Secure sites help keep you safe from identity theft, credit card fraud, spyware, spam, viruses and online scams