More than a million kids go to the emergency department every year in the United States for accidental poisonings.

Many common household items and products that you may not think are interesting can be very attractive to a young baby or child. Kids are curious by nature and they can get into things they shouldn’t.

Pediatrician Dr. Pilar Bradshaw says most accidental poisonings occur when parents or caregivers are home. “The age group that we see most often with accidental poisonings are the 3- to 6-year-old age group and the things that they poison themselves with are many of the things that are just around the house that sometimes caregivers are not keeping track of.”

Risks of household products
Potentially dangerous items include household cleaners, makeup, button batteries, and one of the most common causes of poisonings in children—medications and supplements. Many come in gummy form or are colorful like candy.

That can include gummies with melatonin, a hormone the brain produces in response to darkness. It is a popular supplement that people take to help with sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 11,000 babies and children went to the emergency room between 2019 and 2022 after ingesting melatonin when their parents weren’t watching.

Cannabis-infused candy is another concern, Dr. Bradshaw says. “In states like Oregon where marijuana has been legalized for adults, we’re seeing a big spike in the number of kids that are getting into edibles and other forms of marijuana that are very dangerous for small children.”

How to prevent accidental poisonings
Here are some steps you can take to reduce the chance of accidental poisonings in your home:

  • Keep medicine up high and away from curious fingers.
  • Do not take medicine in front of small children—they may try to imitate you later.
  • Never refer to medicine as candy when talking to kids.
  • Use safety latches on all cabinets that house dangerous products.
  • Employ safety gates to cordon off areas you don’t want your child to access.
  • Take time to look at your home from your child’s perspective.

“I advise parents to get down on your tummy and crawl through your home,” Dr. Bradshaw says. “Because you will be shocked at what you see down there that you didn’t know was at their level.”

Parents should also be aware that there really is no such thing as child-proof packaging, Dr. Bradshaw says. “Child-proof packaging is a misnomer. It’s just packaging that slows that kid down enough that an adult who’s watching can intervene before the kid figures out how to get in there.”

Babysitter precautions
If you have a babysitter watching your kids, take the time to make sure they’re familiar with any risks around the house, such as things they shouldn’t climb on or areas that should be inaccessible, Dr. Bradshaw says. “One of the things that should be discussed is where are the medications located that kids could accidentally get into.”

Make sure babysitters know where the first-aid kit is located, that they’re comfortable calling 9-1-1, and keep the number for Poison Control posted in an easily accessible place like on the refrigerator. That number is 1-800-222-1222.