Poison Prevention: Keeping Your Family Safe

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are approximately 2 million poison exposures in the United States every year — 57 percent of which are among children under the age of 6. Tragically, approximately 30 children die every year due to accidental poisonings.

The most common exposures for children are ingestion of household products, such as cleaning substances, medications, cosmetics, personal care products, foreign bodies and plants. The majority of these accidental poisonings — 90 percent — occur in the home.

Home safety

There are poison dangers for children in each room of the house. Whether it’s cosmetics in the bedroom, oven cleaner in the kitchen or medications in the bathroom, many products can harm children if used incorrectly or accidently eaten, touched or inhaled.

CHOP’s Poison Control Center has developed a Home Safety Checklist that can help you find out if your home is "poison proof."

With the checklist in hand, wander through each room and look at it through the eyes of a child. Is anything within a child's reach? Are safety latches on all cabinets and drawers containing harmful products? Is the Poison Control Center's telephone number on all phones in the house?


In the kitchen, most of the dangers are found in the "cleaning cabinet" where you store drain openers, dishwashing detergents (especially those made for the dishwasher), pine oil cleaners, oven cleaners and ammonia, just to name a few. Often children get into these products while they are being used. Some edible products such as flavoring extracts, baking soda, vinegar, salt and hot pepper can also be harmful to children.


Dangers in the bathroom include medications, powders, beauty supplies, mouthwash, first-aid supplies (rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide), after shave lotions, deodorants and cleaners. In addition, many soaps and shampoos come in delicious scents that can be tempting for a child.


Dressers and nightstands may contain potential dangers such as medications, perfumes, cosmetics and cigarettes.

Garage, basement, shed and laundry room

The garage, basement, shed and laundry room may contain a wide variety of poisons. Examples include detergents/bleach, antifreeze, motor oil, gasoline and related petroleum products, car polish, car batteries, oil-based paint, paint removers, mothballs, lime, bug killers, weed killers, mouse/rat poison, rock salt and fire extinguishers.

Living room

Other items in the house that can be dangerous to children include liquor, lamp oil, furniture polish and certain plants.

Our checklist was developed to help you to poison-proof your home. The list does not include every possible danger. Please contact the Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) for further information.

Food safety

By following a few simple rules, you can reduce your family's risk of developing food poisoning:

  • Always wash your hands well with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before beginning food preparation.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables, including the outer shell of cantaloupes and eggs.
  • Do not use wooden cutting boards for meat and poultry.


Raw or undercooked eggs can make you and your children sick. Avoid eggnog and sauces that may contain raw eggs.


Poultry thawed at room temperature may contain dangerously high levels of bacteria. Thaw your holiday turkey in the refrigerator, not on the kitchen counter. Thaw a 16- to 18-pound turkey in the refrigerator in its original wrapper for three to four days. Thaw an 8- to 12-pound turkey in the refrigerator for one to two days. Thawed turkeys should be used within two days.

If you must stuff your turkey or chicken, pack the stuffing loosely inside the body cavity of the bird. Stuffing that is packed too tightly can prevent the inside of the bird from cooking properly.

Never stuff your turkey or chicken in advance. Place the stuffing inside the body cavity just prior to placing the bird in the oven for roasting. As an alternative, stuffing can be cooked or baked in a separate dish to ensure safety.

Use a meat thermometer when cooking poultry or follow published cooking guidelines.

Safe storage

To keep bacteria from growing on your food, do not allow poultry, meat or dairy products to remain at room temperature for more than two hours. Keep hot foods hot (above 140 degrees F) and cold foods cold (below 40 degrees F).

If you have any additional questions about cooking meat or poultry, call the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-800-535-4555 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. EST and speak to their experienced home economist. The hotline is also TDD-accessible.

More food safety information

Food safety is everyone's concern! Since many cases of food poisoning are caused by improper storage, handling and preparation of food, they are preventable.

Our newsletter, Food Poisoning — Are You Cooking up Trouble?, provides helpful advice to keep your family safe.

Outdoor safety tips

  • Teach your children never to put leaves, stems, bark, seeds, mushrooms, nuts or berries from any plant into their mouths.
  • Make an effort to keep poisonous house plants, bulbs and seeds out of your home and garden (or at least out of reach of young children).
  • Learn to identify the poisonous plants in your neighborhood.
  • Use protective gloves or clothing when handling potentially irritating plants.
  • Do not assume a plant is not poisonous because birds or other wildlife eat it.
  • Never pick and eat any mushrooms that weren’t purposefully grown with the intent of eating.
  • Never rely on cooking to destroy toxic chemicals in plants.
  • Never attempt to destroy poisonous plants or shrubs in your backyard by burning them. Inhaling the smoke produced by burning these plants can cause a life-threatening reaction.
  • Do not prepare home remedies or teas from plants.

Additional resources

For more information about how to keep your family safe from accidental poisonings, see our home safety checklist and safer alternatives. 

Reviewed by: The Poison Control Center
Date: October 2013