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Accidental Childhood Poisoning

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Accidental poisoning is one of the most common and preventable causes of mortality in children. It can take place at home as well as outside.

Written by

Dr. Kriti Singh

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Mohammad Rajja

Published At November 17, 2022
Reviewed AtMay 6, 2024


Accidental child poisoning is the poisoning of a child caused by foreign material causing harm to the body. It is usually found in children less than three years old. As the child is growing, they want to learn new things. Most of the time, children tend to put things in their mouths and try to swallow them even if it tastes unpleasant. However, it can be poisonous and cause harmful effects. Poisoning can occur anytime, anywhere, and children are at higher risk. Therefore, parents should be aware of possible poisonous things at home to reduce the risk of poisoning.

Which Children Are at Risk of Poisoning?

Children want to explore everything around them when they are growing. Due to this curious behavior, it can lead to dangerous situations. Accidental poisoning happens more commonly at home. Children who do not get enough care and less parental supervision are at higher risk of poisoning. Accidental poisoning is commonly found in toddlers between the ages of one to four years.

The following are the few high-risk factors that can lead to accidental child poisoning.

  • Any substance with a dangerous composition is being used and kept near the child's reach.

  • When there is medicine left out to use later.

  • Change in a child's environment, for example, during vacations or visits to relatives' homes.

What Are the Forms of Poisoning?

There are four forms of poisoning, these are

  • Solids, which include medicines and tablets.

  • Liquid that includes household cleaners like bleach.

  • Spray used for cleaning.

  • Gas like carbon monoxide.

How Can Poisoning Occur in Children?

Poisoning is the exposure of chemicals and any external material that can harm the body. The circumstance of exposure to foreign material can be accidental, intentional, environmental, or medical. The routes of exposure can be direct contact, ingestion of foreign material, cutaneous exposure, and inhalation. It can be swallowed, splashed, or sprayed on the eye or skin.

What Are the Causes of Accidental Childhood Poisoning?

Accidental childhood poisoning can occur at any time or any place. Common household things can also be responsible for the poisoning.

The following are the causes of childhood poisoning.

  • Medicines: Medications are the most common cause of accidental poisoning. Poisoning may occur due to an incorrect dose of medicine or leftover medicine in a child's reachable place. Exposure to medications in either way can be harmful. Children tend to swallow if the tablet is next to them. Paracetamol poisoning is most commonly seen in children. Opioid overdose poisoning is seen in children due to Fentanyl patches. These patches can be detached, and children tend to chew them if not disposed of properly. Parents should always be aware of any medicine and dose they give to their child.

  • Household Products: Poisoning can also occur from various household products such as cleaning liquids, bleaching agents, dishwasher cleaners, detergent toilet cleaners, and pesticides. If all this material is near a child's reach, they tend to ingest or swallow it. It can cause severe damage to the gastrointestinal tract of children and burn the eyes or skin of the child.

  • Personal Products: Personal care products such as cosmetics, perfumes, creams, and ointment mouthwash are poisonous if they are ingested. If the child swallowed or inhaled this substance, it may result in vomiting, drowsiness, and difficulty in breathing.

  • Batteries: Flat button-shaped batteries are used in watches, calculators, and toys. Children may tend to swallow this battery if they are not supervised properly. The alkaline chemicals present in batteries may result in burns and ulcers in the child's digestive system.

  • Hand Sanitizer: There is a high content of alcohol in hand sanitizers. If the child ingests it accidentally, it can be lethal for the child.

  • Nicotine Products - Leftover cigarettes, nicotine patches, or nicotine gums can cause nicotine poisoning in children.

  • Household Plants: Various plants are found to cause accidental poisoning in children. The child may chew the leaves, flowers, or fruit of the plant, which may turn poisonous.

Following are the few common household plants that can cause accidental poisoning.

  1. Black Bean - It contains toxic seeds that can cause diarrhea and vomiting if swallowed.

  2. Stinging Brush - It contains stinging hairs that contain neurotoxins. It can cause pain for weeks.

  3. Mushrooms - Certain species of mushrooms are found to be very dangerous.

  4. Angel's Trumpet - It is a very poisonous plant. Ingestion can cause a fast heartbeat, hallucinations, and paralysis.

  5. Asthma Weed - It is a perennial herb(a type of plant that lives for more than two years and has a non-woody stem.) that can result in skin rashes, hay fever, and asthma.

  6. Stechymine Tree - It consists of small orange berries that contain neurotoxins. If the child eats it accidentally, a convulsion (seizure) is caused.

What Are the Symptoms of Accidental Childhood Poisoning?

Following are the various symptoms of accidental poisoning in children.

  • Nausea.

  • Vomiting.

  • Drowsiness.

  • Abdominal pain.

  • Sore throat.

  • Irritability.

  • Trouble breathing.

  • Unusual drooling.

  • Burns on the skin.

  • Blisters present on lip and mouth.

  • Strange odor coming from breath.

  • Unconsciousness.

  • Seizures.

Accidental Childhood Poisoning

How Can Accidental Childhood Poisoning Be Prevented?

Parents should be very intelligent and aware of their children's environment. The house should be poison-proof. Following are the preventive measures parents should follow:

  • Dispose of all the poisonous material properly from the house. For example, parents should store medicines in a locked cabinet.

  • All household chemicals which contain poisonous ingredients should be locked away from the child's reach.

  • Parents should avoid taking medicines in front of their children.

  • There should be safety latches present in the cabinet.

  • Poisonous products should never be placed or stored in containers.

  • Parents should always give the medicine to their child according to the prescribed dose and always check the expiry date of medicines.

What Are the Treatment Modalities of Accidental Childhood Poisoning?

Following are the various treatment modalities for accidental childhood poisoning.

  • Activated charcoal therapy, this treatment helps to prevent the absorption of the poison into the stomach.

  • Administration of a remedial medication that helps to prevent the spread of poisoning.

  • Monitoring of vital signs and observation.

  • Toxin screening level in blood is usually done to monitor possible accidental poisoning.

  • Hemodialysis and Peritoneal dialysis (a medical procedure that involves the removal of waste products and excess fluid from the body by using the peritoneum, a membrane in the abdomen).


Children are at high risk of accidental poisoning due to their curious nature of exploring things around their environment. Therefore, parents should be very conscious and careful. The surrounding environment should be poison-free, and children should be under close supervision. Sometimes, the child finds their way even after resistant locks, closed containers, or places that are not reachable. Therefore, parents should be extra careful and teach their children to avoid poisonous things.

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Dr. Mohammad Rajja
Dr. Mohammad Rajja

General Practitioner


accidental childhood poisoning
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