The Menace of Medicines in the Home

Here in Australia we tend to associate poisoning with jellyfish stings, snakes, and spiders. But there’s something way more dangerous – and potentially deadly – lurking in the average household cupboard: medicines. Children are most at risk from accidental poisoning in the home, and those under 5 are in the highest risk category.

How do you know if your child has been poisoned in the home?

Young children love exploring, and one of the ways that toddlers learn about their environment is by putting things in their mouths. If a child could (or would) tell you that he or she has swallowed something they shouldn’t have, it would make a parent or carer’s job a whole lot easier. But they don’t, do they? So knowing a few of the tell-tale signs of poisoning is essential. These symptoms include:

  • Feeling sick or vomiting
  • Stomach pains, and possibly diarrhoea
  • Drowsiness or dizziness
  • General weakness
  • Shivering or sweating
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Rash (or perhaps burns around the mouth)
  • Seizures

That’s a long list of symptoms, and if you do suspect that your child has been poisoned by medicines you should try to establish which medicine is to blame and get medical help immediately.

Prevention is better than cure

Though little hands and enquiring minds mean almost nowhere is safe in the house, there are some precautions you should take with your medicines:

  • Keep all medicines in a locked cupboard out of the reach of children
  • Never take your tablets and other medicines out of their containers, and make sure the lid is secured always
  • Keep bags out of children’s reach. This is especially important when you have visitors: a woman’s bag is a favourite place to keep medicine, and a target for toddlers
  • When visiting friends and relatives, keep an eye on your toddler at all times

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