Poisons in the Home
What is a poison?
A poison is something that can make you sick, hurt or kill you if it gets into your body. Poisons can be found inside and outside of our homes. Grown-ups sometimes use poisons to do things around the house, like cleaning floors, washing clothes, painting, killing bugs and killing weeds. Poisons are only if they are used the right way. They can make you sick and hurt you if they get in your body. We should never play with, touch or taste poisons.
Can you tell what is poisonous just by what it looks like?
- No! Many poisons look exactly like things that you can eat or drink.
- e.g. blue Powerade / Windowlene
- e.g. sweets / medicines
- e.g. soap powder / dried coconut
Can you tell from the smell whether it is poisonous?
- No! Some nice-smelling things are poisonous, and some of them even smell like food.
- e.g. perfume, potpourri oil, lemon-scented cleaning liquid
Can you tell what it looks like from the type of container it is in?
- No! Sometimes people store poisons in ordinary cooldrink bottles.
- They shouldn't do this, but they might not know.
Is it only poisonous if I get it in my mouth?
- No! Some things can poison you through eyes, lungs, skin or blood.
- e.g. breathing in fumes from some glues, paint, cleaning fluids, burning plastics
- e.g. sprays that you should not get in your eyes
- e.g. acids and other chemicals that damage your skin
- e.g. snakebite, rusty nails, or injections
Common poisons in the home
- Almost any kind of cleaning material (bleach, soap powder)
- Insecticide, fertilizer, weed killer
- Rat poison, bug spray
- Paint, thinners, varnish (even flakes of dry paint can be poisonous)
- Deodorant, hair spray, perfume
- Petrol, oil, paraffin, meths
- Surgical spirits
- Alcohol and drugs
- Many types of chemicals
- Some types of plants
- Food poisoning
Many plants that we see inside and outside are poisonous. These plants are not the same as plants that we buy in the grocery store or that we grow in our gardens for food. We should never pick and eat any plant, berry, leaf, mushroom or flower.
Safety rules for poisons
- Don’t touch, don’t taste, ask first!
- Keep poisons locked up or on a high shelf when not in use. Never leave the poisons out unsupervised, especially if there are small children around.
- Never pick and eat any plant, berry, mushroom or flower.
What to do if someone is poisoned
- Quickly call the Poison Centre or emergency number and follow their instructions. Take the poison container to the phone with you.
- Keep any tablets, medicine, foods, which you think the patient may have eaten, and anything a doctor could use to identify the type of poison, e.g. vomit.
- DO NOT give anything by mouth or encourage vomiting unless you have been advised to do so by medical professionals.
Poison questions and answers
Question: Who is the best person in your house to give you your medicine?
Answer: An adult
Question: If you are babysitting your little brother and you find him with an open bottle of tablets, what could you do?
Possible correct answers: Find an adult. Take the aspirin away from him. Call the Poison Center. Check his mouth for tablets.
Question: If your friend dared you to eat some mushrooms growing in the yard, would you be able to tell by looking which kind were poisonous?
Answer: NO. It is very difficult to identify wild mushrooms. Only eat mushrooms from the store.
Question: Name 2 nice-smelling products that could hurt you if you drank them by accident.
Answer: Perfume, air fresheners, lemon-scented polish or cleaners, potpourri oil.
Question: A vitamin a day is good for you, but can you get sick if you eat too many?
Answer: Yes! You can get a bad stomachache, vomiting and diarrhea.
Question: Your grandmother is coming to visit. She keeps medicine in her handbag. Your baby sister likes to get into bags. What could you do to keep your sister from eating Grandma's pills?
Possible correct answers: Put the bag in a locked room or cupboard, or in a high cabinet.
Question: Name another way you can be poisoned besides tasting a poison?
Answer: Inhale it (breathe it in), inject (poison forced through the skin by a sting or bite), topical (on the top of the skin), or in the eye.
Question: If someone swallowed a fatal poison, what would happen? What does "fatal" mean?
Answer: They could die. Fatal means causing death.
Question: Name a venomous animal in the ocean that can sting or bite you.
Possible correct answers: bluebottle, jellyfish, stingray, sea snake.
Question: Who can your parents call on the phone for help if someone got poison in their eyes, mouth, lungs or skin?
Answer: The Poison Center
Question: What kind of bugs can sting you and make you hurt?
Possible correct answers: Bees, wasps, centipedes, spiders, scorpions
Question: Which berries are safer to eat: those growing on a bush in a park or berries from your refrigerator?
Answer: From your refrigerator
Question: Is it OK to give your dog pills for people?
Answer: No, they could be too strong for a dog.