Children's Hospital Colorado

Poison Prevention

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Children act fast, and so do poisons

It doesn’t take much to make a small child sick. Kids' bodies are different, and they have faster metabolisms than adults. This means anything they ingest will be absorbed into the bloodstream very quickly.

Poison control centers in the United States receive 1.2 million calls each year as a result of accidental poisoning of children ages 5 and under. Each year, about 53,000 kids in that age group are treated in emergency rooms for poisoning, and about 70 die. Nearly 90% of these toxic exposures occur in the home, and 60% involve non-pharmaceutical products such as cosmetics, cleansers, personal care products, plants, pesticides, art supplies, alcohol and toys.

Store hazardous goods safely

Child-resistant packaging is credited with saving hundreds of children’s lives since its introduction in the 1970s, and childhood lead poisoning declined by 80% in the 15 years after unleaded gasoline and paint became industry standards. Still, there is no substitute for active supervision and childproofing. If a product label says ‘keep out of reach of children,’ there’s a reason. Keep it up high and in a locked cabinet.

Safe Kids Colorado reminds parents to keep the poison control hotline number handy. Memorize this toll-free number: 800-222-1222. Keep it near every phone in your home and program it into your cell phone. From anywhere in the United States, this number connects to the local poison control center.

Call 911, not poison control, if a child is choking, having trouble breathing or having a seizure. Follow the 911 operator’s instructions. Whether calling 911 or the Poison Center, do not induce vomiting or give the child any fluid or medication unless directed.

Learn more in our guide about what to do when your kid swallows something weird.

Additional tips for poison prevention

Safe Kids Colorado offers these additional tips:

  • Don’t refer to medicine or vitamins as candy. Children should not think of therapeutic substances as treats. And when you are administering medicine to your children, follow dosage directions carefully.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector in every sleeping area. Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless gas that builds up around fuel-burning appliances — and cars in garages — and is present in tobacco smoke. It can make a child seriously ill in concentrations that would barely affect an adult.
  • Get your home tested for lead. Kids inhale the dust of lead-based paint and can build up enough lead in their blood to affect intelligence, growth and development. An estimated 890,000 children ages 1 to 5 have too much lead in their blood. Lead-based paint was used in homes until 1978, so it’s important to have older homes tested.
  • Stay alert while using cleaning products or other potentially harmful substances. A child can be poisoned in a matter of seconds. Never leave kids alone with an open container of something you wouldn’t want them to ingest.
  • Store medications and any potentially harmful products in their original containers with their original labeling. Flush expired medications down the toilet. 
  • Learn which plants are poisonous. Keep poisonous houseplants out of reach, and teach children not to put any part of an outdoor plant in their mouths without adult supervision.
  • Discuss these precautions with grandparents and relatives. Grandparents may have medications that can be very dangerous to children, and their homes might not be as well childproofed as yours. 
  • Learn CPR. In less than three hours, you can learn effective interventions that can give a fighting chance to a child whose breathing and heartbeat have stopped.

For more information about poison prevention, please contact the Safe Kids Colorado coordinator at 720-777-3185 or visit

Safe Kids Colorado works to prevent accidental childhood injury, the leading killer of children 14 years and under. Its members include individuals from over 50 health and safety agencies and organizations throughout the Denver metropolitan area.

Safe Kids Colorado is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing accidental injury. Safe Kids Colorado was founded in 1998 and is led by Children's Hospital Colorado.

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