Children Under 6

Approximately 40 percent of calls into poison centers involve children under the age of six.

A poison is anything that can harm someone if it is used:

  • in the wrong way
  • by the wrong person
  • in the wrong amount

Poisons are everywhere and can include:

  • medicines (prescription or over-the-counter)
  • household cleaners
  • personal care products
  • automotive products
  • lawn and garden products
  • plants, berries, and mushrooms
  • critters outside

Risk Factors:

  • Curiosity: Young children learn by trying. If they come upon something that is new, they will look, touch, and taste. It is the adult's responsibility to make sure that items within their reach will not hurt them when they go into their mouth.
  • Imitation: Young children learn by imitating what they see, but they don't always get it right. They may try to drink household cleaners or take medicine on their own.
  • Capabilities Change with Age: Parents don't always realize when their child can do something new, such as opening a drawer or bottle. Poison-proof your home as soon as your child starts crawling.
  • Improper Storage: Leaving products on the counter or table between uses will increase the likelihood that a child will get into it. Store things up, away, and out of sight. 
  • Lack of Supervision: Children will get into things they shouldn't when an adult is not paying attention. This includes those times when the adult is cooking dinner, answering the door or phone, taking a shower, or visiting with friends.
  • Look-a-likes: Medicines can look like candy to young children. Liquid cleaners can look like drinks.
  • Dares: Young children will often dare each other to eat berries in the yard or taste household cleaners.


Most poisonings are unintentional and preventable. Adults should talk to children about poisons. Consider including the following topics in the conversation:

  • "Always Ask First": Never touch, smell, or taste anything without first checking with an adult to make sure it is safe.
  • Take Medicine from Safe Adults Only: Never share medicine or take a medicine without adult supervision. Never give medicine to a younger sibling.
  • Poisons Can Look and Smell Like Things We Eat and Drink: Poisons can smell good and can be any color.
  • Some Products Can Become Poisons When Used Incorrectly: Examples include: (1) toothpaste cleans our teeth, but will make us sick if we eat it; (2) dish soap cleans our dishes, but will make us sick if we drink it.

Additional Resources:

Please explore these additional resources to help prevent poisonings for children under age six. These resources are provided for informational use only.