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In New South Wales, every year, thousands of children and adults need medical care for poisoning from products commonly found in and around the home. Commonly, accidental poisonings occur in children younger than five, with children aged one to three at greatest risk.

Why are children more likely to be poisoned?

Young children are exploring their world but are unaware of potential dangers. They are curious and will often put things in their mouth to explore their taste and texture. They also like to imitate what others do, including taking medications. Children are at increased risk of poisoning when family routine is changed, e.g. on holidays, moving house or having visitors who are on medications.

How can you prevent a poisoning?

  • Closely supervise children around the home
  • Don't call medicines 'lollies'. When giving medicine to children, always follow the instructions on the label
  • Buy products in child resistant containers but remember that the lids are not completely child-proof - a curious and determined child may eventually open these containers. Always make sure that the child-resistant lid is on properly after each use 
  • Store all poisons including medicines, cleaning products and chemicals in their original containers that are clearly labelled. Return  medicines and poisons to their safe storage area immediately after use. Do not leave them out on a bench or counter
  • Do NOT decant liquid chemicals into drink bottles
  • Place containers in a child-resistant locked cupboard that is at least 1.5 metres above the ground 
  • Keep handbags out of a child's reach if storing medicine or other poisons in your handbag 
  • Be extra vigilant when normal family routine is changed, e.g going on holidays, moving house, having visitors who are on medications
  • Dispose of unwanted household chemicals - contact the EPA CleanOut line 131 555 or
  • Take any unwanted or out-of-date medicines to your local pharmacy or 
  • Check out our Poisons Safety Checklist to reduce the risk of poisoning in your home, garden and shed
  • Check that the plants in your garden are not poisonous - refer to Poisonous Plants fact sheet

Resources available on poisoning prevention include
  • Kids and Poisons brochure
  • Kids and Poisons First aid fridge magnet
  • Poisons Information stickers
To order resources please go to

How do adults get poisoned?

Adults may be exposed to poisons in several different ways:

  • Medication errors are a common problem, especially for the elderly who may be on many drug treatments
  • Accidental poisoning may occur in the home or workplace
  • Recreational poisoning from the intake of alcohol and/or various illicit drugs or chemicals
  • Deliberate self-poisoning - any person attempting deliberate self-harm should ALWAYS be referred to hospital for assessment and counseling
  • Occupational/industrial poisoning related to exposure to chemicals, gases or other substances in the workplace