Alcohol, Drug, or Poison Ingestion in Children: Care Instructions

Skip to the navigation

Your Care Instructions

A child can become very sick, or die, from swallowing alcohol, drugs, or poisons.

Alcohol is in beer, wine, and spirits. But it also is in mouthwash and food extracts. A child can become ill after swallowing only a little bit.

Drugs include over-the-counter medicine (such as aspirin or acetaminophen) and prescription medicine. They also include natural health products. And they include illegal drugs, such as cocaine and heroin.

And poisons are all around us. They include household cleaners, cosmetics, houseplants, and garden chemicals.

The best way to protect your child is to make sure that all alcohol, medicine, and household products are kept out of sight. This is a good time to check around your house to make sure that your child can't get to them.

The doctor has checked your child carefully, but problems can develop later. If you notice any problems or new symptoms, get medical treatment right away.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Follow your doctor's instructions about closely watching your child's health and behaviour.

Prevention

  • Keep all alcohol, drugs, and poisons out of sight. For example:
    • Do not take your medicines in front of your child. He or she may try to do what you do.
    • Never leave alcohol, medicines, or household products out when you are not in the room.
    • Guests may have medicines with them. Make sure that guests keep their bags out of the reach of your child.
    • Do not keep products like oven cleaner and dishwasher soap under the kitchen sink.
    • Keep products in the containers they came in. Keep the original labels on them.
    • Remove poisonous plants from your home.

When should you call for help?

If you see your child swallow poison or you think that he or she has swallowed some, stay calm. Call your local provincial Poison Control Centre, nurse call line, or doctor. Have the product, alcohol, or medicine container with you. Use it to tell the operator exactly what your child took. The poison control centre can tell you what to do right away. Do not make your child vomit unless you are told to.

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).
  • Your child is confused or is very sleepy.
  • Your child has severe trouble breathing.
  • Your child has a seizure.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new symptoms or is not acting normally.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter F939 in the search box to learn more about "Alcohol, Drug, or Poison Ingestion in Children: Care Instructions."