Many people store a range of household products in the bathroom and it is important that these items are kept out of reach and sight of children to prevent accidental poisoning. Some products are potentially harmful even if a small amount is swallowed or with skin or eye contact.
Common cleaning products include bleach, disinfectants, toilet cleaners, rim blocks and fresheners, and shower cleaner. In addition, bathrooms often contain personal hygiene products such as cosmetics and toiletries including shower gel, shampoo, bubble bath, hand wash, toothpaste, and mouthwash. Some people may keep their medicines, vitamins and supplements in the bathroom and these items should be stored securely out of reach and sight of children.
It is important to always keep poisoning prevention to the forefront of your mind, especially when children are present in your home or if your children are visiting the home of a friend or relative. It only takes seconds for accidental poisoning to occur so always supervise children closely to keep them safe.
Let us consider the safety profiles of some of popular cleaning products used for spring cleaning your home.
Disinfectants, anti-bacterial cleaners, and detergent-based products often contain ingredients called surfactants (another name for detergent-based chemicals). If small amounts of surfactants are swallowed accidentally, this can cause nausea, vomiting, and sometimes diarrhoea. If vomiting occurs or if there is foaming (bubbles) at the mouth, the surfactants may enter the lungs and cause coughing and breathing difficulties later on. Surfactants may also cause eye irritation after contact and it is important to wash eyes thoroughly with tap water for at least 10 minutes if a splash occurs. Always seek medical advice if symptoms develop.
There are two types of household bleach:
(1) chlorine-based bleach containing sodium hypochlorite
(2) oxygen-based bleach containing hydrogen peroxide.
Sodium hypochlorite found in household bleaches is of relatively low toxicity if accidentally swallowed in small amounts. It can cause a mild burning sensation to the mouth and throat, nausea, retching, and vomiting. Seek medical advice if more than minor symptoms develop.
Hydrogen peroxide can cause irritation to the mouth, nausea, vomiting, and belching if a small amount is swallowed. A glass of milk or water can be given once the patient has no symptoms and is not vomiting. Seek medical advice if more than minor symptoms develop.
Toilet cleaners often contain acidic chemicals and exposure by any route is potentially dangerous. Always seek medical advice if you have symptoms after swallowing any amount, or following eye or skin exposure.
Toilet cleaners and bleach products should never be mixed as they react together and can release dangerous gases which can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation with coughing and shortness of breath. If you are exposed to fumes, get fresh air and seek medical advice if your symptoms do not improve. Sometimes symptoms can be delayed.
Liquid air-fresheners and plug-in air-fresheners may contain perfume and different types of alcohol. If small amounts are swallowed there may be minor nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. Drowsiness, dizziness and incoordination can develop if large volumes are swallowed. Eye exposure may result in a stinging sensation and tear production. Rinse the eyes thoroughly with tap water and seek medical advice if symptoms develop.
Reed diffusers can contain a mixture of ingredients that may cause harm if swallowed. If the liquid is swallowed, call the Poisons Centre for advice.
Cosmetic products and personal hygiene products are usually low in toxicity due to the nature of these products however, some items may contain alcohol for example perfume, aftershave and mouthwash. These products but can cause mild stomach upset if ingested in small quantities but if large amounts are taken, children may become drowsy, unsteady on their feet and
The UFI, also called the Unique Formula Identifier, is a 16 character code consisting of capital letters and numbers that is printed on the label of products that are classified as hazardous. The code helps the Poisons Centre find out what chemicals are in the product and their concentrations.
An example of a UFI is H563-L90S-R783-J823
- Store chemicals safely out of reach and sight.
- Child resistant closures are not child-proof and some children are able to open the lids without too much difficulty.
- Always read product labels and use products only as directed.
- Use gloves to prevent irritant or corrosive chemicals causing damage to your skin.
- Never mix chemical products together, for example bleach and toilet cleaner.
- Open the window in the area where you are working with chemical products to get fresh air.
- Do not leave product containers open or unattended even for a short time.
- Do not transfer products from their original containers into other bottles or containers.
Know what to do if accidental poisoning occurs
If your child manages to get hold of a cleaning product it is important to act quickly. Here’s a list of what you should do.
- Stay calm.
- Take the product from the child.
- If they swallow the product, make them spit it out. Check their mouth for redness, irritation or burns.
- NEVER make your child vomit.
- If the product has splashed onto their skin or into their eyes rinse them for 15 minutes with running water. Do not apply eye drops to the eye.
- Signs and symptoms of poisoning can be delayed, so it is important to always seek medical advice.
- Bring the product container to the phone and call the Poisons Centre for advice on 01 809 2166 (available from 8am-10pm daily).
If your child has serious symptoms for example if they are unconscious or having seizures, call the emergency services immediately on 999 or 112.
Contact the National Poisons Information Centre
Healthcare Professional Line: 01 809 2566 (24hr)
Public Poisons Line: 01 809 2166 (8am-10pm)