Three in four parents unaware of childhood poisoning risk

21 Jan 2013, 1:27 p.m.

Medicines (What to Bring)

A new survey from the Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT) has found that three in four parents (73%) with children under 5 mistakenly believe that child safety tops make medicines and toxic cleaning products child-proof. 

The stark reality is that they slow children down but some three and four-year olds can open them in seconds.

This mistaken reliance on child safety tops is putting youngster’s lives at risk, with the survey revealing that less than a quarter of parents keep cleaning products (24%) or medicines (25%) safely locked away.

Every day, 70 under 5s are rushed to A&E with suspected poisoning and 15 are admitted to hospital. Medicines and cleaning products top the list of causes of childhood poisoning. Poisoning near-misses are significantly higher, with the survey revealing that 1 in 7 under 5s (12%) have come close to swallowing something dangerous like pills or cleaning products.

In a third (32%) of all homes, children under 5 can find cleaning products under the kitchen sink, while in 1 in 5 homes they are on floor by the toilet (19%). In a quarter of homes, under 5s can find medicines in unlocked bathroom cabinets (24%), while in 1 in 3 homes, they are easily accessible in handbags (13%), bedside cabinets (13%) and on kitchen worktops (12%).

Katrina Phillips, Chief Executive, CAPT commented: “Young children are into everything and pills that look like sweets or brightly-coloured detergents are hugely attractive to them. But accidental poisoning can have a devastating effect – overdosing on tablets can cause kidney damage while oven cleaner can burn through a child’s throat and internal organs.

It’s vital for parents to know they can’t rely on child safety tops to keep young children safe from poisoning. Child safety tops are never totally child-proof. You need to move your cleaning things and medicines to a high-up cupboard in a room where people are coming and going, like your kitchen, and ideally locked away.”

To raise awareness of childhood poisoning, CAPT is launching a new DVD resource pack Toxic Tales: preventing childhood poisoning. The DVD features Dr Joe Brierley, Consultant Paediatric Intensivist at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Dr Brierley said: “It can take just a few seconds for a child to get into a bottle of detergent or medicines which, if swallowed, can result in a lifetime of treatment and sadly even death. I treat many children who have been accidentally poisoned and the impact can be devastating, sometimes requiring multiple operations and long-term treatment.

The impact isn’t just on the child – the whole family can suffer guilt and the burden of caring for a sick child. I fully support CAPT’s campaign to get parents and carers to keep cleaning products and medicines well out of sight and reach of children.”

For more practical advice on poisons prevention go to the Child Accident Prevention Trust website