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Top Household Poisons

Poison Control Basics


Updated March 21, 2012

When parents childproof their house, especially from household poisons, they often concentrate on what they think are the most dangerous or deadly household poisons.

Unfortunately, they usually only consider those things that they think are most poisonous: prescription medications, alcohol, and hydrocarbons (gasoline, lamp oil, paint thinner, etc.). Surprisingly, while these may be some of the more immediately deadly poisons, they are not even among the top household poisons to which children are exposed.

Instead, the top household poisons for kids include:

  1. cosmetics and personal care products
  2. pain relievers
  3. household cleaning products
  4. foreign bodies, toys, and other miscellaneous objects (including button batteries)
  5. topical creams and ointments
  6. vitamins
  7. antihistamines
  8. pesticides
  9. cold and cough medicines
  10. gastrointestinal medicines
  11. plants
  12. antimicrobial medicines (antibiotics, etc.)
  13. heart and blood pressure medicines
  14. office supplies and arts and crafts supplies
  15. hormones
This contrasts quite a bit with what the American Academy of Pediatrics considers the most dangerous potential poisons, which include "medicines, cleaning products, antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid, pesticides, furniture polish, gasoline, kerosene and lamp oil."

Childhood Poisonings

Although this list may be surprising to some people, especially those who are used to only thinking about pesticides and things like paint thinner as poisons, it is important to remember that almost anything that is misused and causes your child to have symptoms could be considered a poison exposure. So if your child gets too much actaminophen or ibuprophen (pain relievers), or an extra dose of a cold and cough medicine, then you should call poison control.

Since many of the things on the above list of household poisons are readily available in just about every house, and many parents don't consider them to be poisons, it is not surprising that they lead to so many poisonings.

That makes it important to get your home childproofed and lock up and secure all of these products as well as the more obvious poisons, such as pesticides, prescriptions medications, and hydrocarbons.


2010 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System (NPDS): 28th Annual Report

American Academy of Pediatrics. Tips for Poison Prevention and Treatment. www.healthychildren.org/English/news/Pages/Tips-for-Poison-Prevention-and-Treatment.aspx Accessed March 2012.

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