When my son started crawling and pulled open a cupboard in our kitchen I stopped him and immediately installed locks on all the drawers and cupboards. Most contain pots, pans and various household items, but they weren’t dangerous to him in any way.

Then I thought of all the other places in our home with dangerous chemicals and other items that shouldn’t be within reach of little ones. Even with locks on the doors, something could still happen. What if a lock didn’t get put back on properly? What if a lock breaks off? It wasn’t worth the risk, so I moved everything poisonous up high.

It’s a fact that the majority of phone calls (64%) made to Poison Control in Ontario come from the general public and are placed from their own home or another residence. Over half of all unintentional exposures to poison occur in children under 6 years of age. That startling statistic proves it is very important to take safety precautions to reduce the potential risk and learn what to do if ingestion happens.

Here are some ideas to help:

  1. Put self-locking safety locks on all cupboards! Any cupboard that contains substances that are unsafe to ingest should be locked. There are a variety of locks on the market, but the safest are those which automatically re-lock when closed. This eliminates the possibility of forgetting to put the lock back on. (Magnetics and clip options are available.)
  2. Put unsafe household items out of sight and reach. In our house, all of the typical, “under the kitchen sink” items are kept in the highest cupboard instead- well out of reach of our kids. We practice this throughout the house (laundry room, bathroom and hallway closets as well). Anything that is unsafe to ingest, including pharmaceuticals, are high up.
  3. Consider using natural products. Natural household products tend to have less harmful ingredients in them. This is not to say that they are edible, but they often pose less risk if ingestion were to happen by accident.
  4. Avoid household poisonous items that look the same as ingestible items. Google this and you will see how many household items (such as Pine-sol) look very very similar to food/drink containers (such as yellow Gatorade).
  5. Make your own labels and tape them onto any bottles in your home that are dangerous to ingest. Ensure that your children recognize this label and understand its importance. For example, use a white piece of paper with a bright red X written on the front. Then your children will know that anything containing that X is unsafe.
  6. Educate yourself about the products in your house. All products may not contain a hazardous symbol such as the skull and crossbones. For example, natural remedies, oils and even household plants. If you are unsure about a product, contact poison control.
  7. Have poison control on speed dial! If you suspect that your child has ingested something harmful do not hesitate to phone poison control. They are available 24 hours a day.

Poison Control Phone Numbers

  • Alberta: 1-800-332-1414
  • British Columbia: 1-800-567-8911
  • Manitoba: 1-855-776-4766
  • New Brunswick: no number, call 911
  • Newfoundland & Labrador: 1-866-727-1110
  • Northwest Territories: 1-800-332-1414
  • Nova Scotia: 1-800-565-8161
  • Nunavut: 1-800-268-9017
  • Ontario: 1-800-268-9017
  • PEI: 1-800-565-8161
  • Quebec: 1-800-463-5060
  • Saskatchewan: 1-866-454-1212
  • Yukon: 811 or 604-682-5050

Erica is a mother of two (4.5-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter) and lives in Toronto with her husband and kids. She has worked for the past 10 years as an Occupational Therapist in mental health. Erica writes a parenting and lifestyle blog called Anna Georgianna Blog, named for her Nana and Grandmother who were two of the strongest, most influential women in her life.