Don’t let poisoning incidents ruin Christmas

CAPT, the Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT) is calling on all parents, grandparents, families and friends to make sure that the likes of cleaning producrs and medicines are both out of sight and reach little ones, and also to alert families about the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning over the Christmas period.

Christmas is one of the most hectic times of year for families, and parents in particular have meals to plan, presents to get and crowds of friends and other family members to entertain. This should also be a perticularly exciting time for children, but when there is so much going on it can also be a particularly hazardous time for them, especially when it comes to accidents that involve poisoning.

Distracted parents can easily leave cleaning products within the reach of little hands without even realising it, while guests could leave bags lying around containing pills, or even have them on bedside cabinets counted out ready to take.

Every day 15 young children are admitted to hospital with suspected poisoning. Medicines are the most common cause of accidental poisoning, with everyday painkillers a frequent culprit. Cleaning products such as bleach, oven cleaner and detergent liquitabs are also common hazards. Yet many parents are unaware that safety tops are not child-proof.

The risk for carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning peaks in the winter, often caused by unsafe central heating systems, gas cookers or gas fires. Every year 50 children are admitted to hospital from CO poisoning in the home. Children are at greater risk of serious damage or death from CO poisoning, as their bodies are smaller and weaker than those of an adult and therefore they can be overcome by the fumes quicker.

Katrina Phillips, Chief Executive, CAPT commented: “A frantic dash to casualty with a toddler who has swallowed something poisonous isn’t on anybody’s Christmas list. That’s why we want parents to be aware of the increased risks that come with friends and family visiting, changes in routine and a bit more chaos than usual. Follow our quick and easy safety tips to keep Christmas festive and young children safe from serious harm.”

Dr Joe Brierley, Consultant Paediatric Intensivist, Great Ormond Street Hospital said: “Christmas is for many a time of great joy, of family and togetherness with children spending time visiting relatives and friends. However, in homes that don’t normally have young children – and even those that do – just take 5 minutes on arrival for a quick safety check.”


Ask visitors to your home, such as grandparents, not to leave medicines in places where young children can find them, for example in handbags on the floor or counted out on bedside cabinets.

Remember that safety tops slow young children down but are not child-proof.


Clear away any bottles of alcohol and the last dregs of drinks left in glasses, as even small amounts of alcohol can poison young children.

Household products

If you are staying away from home, check to see where the household cleaners are. If they’re next to the toilet or under the sink, move them out of reach and sight of young children.

Be especially wary of liquitabs. They are bright and attractive to young children who can mistake them for sweets.

Carbon Monoxide

Buy a carbon monoxide alarm for any room with a flame-burning appliance such as a gas boiler, gas cooker, gas fire or an open fire.

For more practical advice on poison prevention go to the Child Accident Prevention Trust’s website