A small child exposed to a potentially poisonous substance causes great anxiety in parents. In South Africa, just under half of the calls to the Poisons Information Helpline relate to accidental poisoning in children under the age of 5 years. Fortunately, accidental poisoning is seldom fatal; childhood poisoning contributed only 0.21% global deaths in children under the age of 5 years in 2019.
Accidental poisoning is commonest in children under five years, with a peak at two years of age. At this age, children are becoming more mobile, they like to explore, and copy older children and adults, but they do not yet recognise danger.
For a pre-school child, home is the main living environment, so exposures to household substances are common. Household substances include cleaning agents such as bleaches and soaps, which can cause a local chemical (burn) injury. Cosmetics are common in the home, but unlikely to cause significant poisoning.