Caregiver's Guide to Poison Prevention | Illinois Poison Center 

Caregiver's Guide to Poison Prevention

Nov 23, 2020
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Are children safe from potentially harmful substances when they visit you and/or you care for them? Nearly half of calls received by the Illinois Poison Center (IPC) involve children under 6 years of age. 


The IPC is the only certified, regional poison center in the state, serving all of Illinois 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Staffed by nurses, physicians, pharmacists and poison specialists, the IPC provides free, confidential poison prevention and treatment advice via a national, toll-free hotline, 1-800-222­-1222, which automatically connects callers with their designated local poison center from anywhere in the U.S.; all calls placed in Illinois are routed to the IPC.


The IPC provides information and treatment recommendations re: medication errors/interactions, cleaning/automotive products, personal/beauty care products, overdoses, alcohol or drug misuse, plants, herbal products, bites, stings and other potentially harmful substances.


To ensure you, your grandchildren, client’s children and the rest of your family are safe from potentially harmful substances/products in the home, follow these general safety tips:

  • Teach children to “Always ask first” before eating or drinking anything.
  • Store potentially harmful substances and products in cabinets with child-resistant safety locks, or up high and out of children’s reach.
  • Don’t store cleaning products and food in the same areas/cabinets.
  • Keep perfumes, colognes, cosmetics and other personal care products out of children’s reach.
  • Keep all potentially harmful products (cleaners, cosmetics, medicines and items used for home repair, gardening and automobiles) in their original container with original labels.
  • Always read the labels and directions for use each time you use cleaning products and other possible poisons.
  • Rinse out all empty containers (those used for bleaches, cleaners, etc.) before discarding.
  • Make sure the Illinois Poison Center’s telephone number is stored in or near each phone in your home. (Free phone stickers area available requesting a Complimentary Packet.
  • For a free Babysitter’s/Nanny’s Emergency Contact Sheet visit the IPC website Resource Library.
Medicine Safety

Toddlers are often curious about medicines, so be sure to take extra precautions with medications you may have around the house and/or  in your purse/bag/pocket. Below is a list of helpful hints regarding medicine safety.

  • Keep medicines in their original containers and store them in locked cabinets.
  • Do not place or store medications within the reach of children.
  • Use child-resistant containers for medications carried in your purse (please note: daily pill counters are not child-resistant and child-resistant doesn’t mean child-proof!). 
  • Dispose of old or unused medications. Visit for take-back/drop off programs ; rinse out containers before throwing them away.
  • Never call medicine candy or make a game out of taking it.
  • Do not take or give medicines in the dark or without your glasses.

Handbag/Purse Safety

Don’t allow children to play with purses/bags/backpacks. There are many things in these bags/carriers that can be hazardous to a young child if they get into the child’s mouth, including make-up, perfumes, ointment creams, medications, laxatives, etc.  Remember that many of these items may also pose a choking hazard.


Plant Safety

Many plants and flowers that are found inside and outside the home may be toxic. To prevent a plant poisoning, follow these guidelines:

  • Keep all houseplants out of children’s reach.
  • Know the names of all your plants, both indoors and outdoors. (Consult a nursery or florist to identify unknown plants.)
  • Teach your grandchildren never to put mushrooms, berries, or any part of a plant in their mouths.

Click here for a list of toxic plants (mild/moderate toxic, highly toxic).


Free online poison prevention education training, educational materials, presentation tools and Complimentary Packet (sticker, magnet, first aid information). 

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