Published: Tuesday 23 May 2017

We all have various cleaning products around the home or workplace, whether it be washing up liquid, dishwasher capsules, laundry liquids or bathroom cleaner. Unfortunately this type of product presents a poison hazard to babies and young children. Each year, many children (mostly under the age of five) need medical treatment as a result of coming into contact with such substances.

Luckily, long term harm is unusual but it can be a stressful and uncertain time which can easily be avoided.

So how can you prevent such accidents taking place?

  • Make sure that cleaning products are kept out of sight and reach of children. You can child-proof kitchen cupboards, for example, with specially designed clips or locks.
  • Keep any products in their original bottles or packets, so you can easily identify them.
  • Double check that all lids are properly screwed or pushed on.
  • Don’t leave cleaning products out once you’ve used them.
  • Try to keep cleaning products away from food items.
  • Buy products in child-resistant packaging whenever possible.
  • Be aware of how to properly use the product.

What are the symptoms of poisoning by cleaning products?

  • Sickness / vomiting
  • Pain in the stomach or abdomen
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Drowsiness
  • Fits (seizures)

What should I do if I think a child has been poisoned by a cleaning product?

  • If you think a child has swallowed something potentially poisonous you should get medical help immediately - call 999.
  • Do not let the child drink anything.
  • Do not make the child vomit as this could result in their airway being blocked.
  • If you think that the child’s lips have been burned by a corrosive substance, you can give frequent sips of cold water or milk.
  • Any cleaning product on the skin can be rinsed away with water.

When you do see a doctor, paramedic or other medical professional, they will need the following details so that they can treat the child who’s been poisoned:

  • What substance you believe has been swallowed / inhaled / touched (if you have the packaging, this is ideal)
  • How long ago the substance was swallowed / inhaled / touched
  • How much was swallowed / inhaled / touched
  • You should also give the details of any symptoms that the person has displayed such as being drowsy or vomiting.

ROSPA has produced this useful safety checklist for parents and carers of young children.

To feel first aid confident, and know how to prevent common accidents, join our Baby and Child First Aid course which is idea for parents and carers. If you’re a childcare professional, we also run Paediatric First Aid courses which you can join at a location in Sussex or book an in-house session for a team of people.


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