Poisoning caused by household products

Last updated: 05/03/2023

Symptoms of poisoning caused by household products

Incidents of poisoning caused by household products can be identified by various symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing
  • Stinging of the eyes, nose or throat
  • Asthma attack

Inform the emergency services

As soon as you recognise that poisoning has occurred, you should:

  • Contact the fire and emergency service on 18 or 112
  • Monitor the victim until the emergency services arrive
  • Notify the nearest Centre for Poisons (Marseille Centre for Poisons 04 91 75 25 25)

Be effective when you make the emergency call:

  • Respond calmly to all the questions you are asked regarding the age and weight of the victim, name or description of the product involved, quantity ingested, symptoms, etc.
  • Do exactly as the emergency services tell you and do not do anything else
  • Ask for additional information if you do not understand
  • Do not hang up the telephone until you are asked to do so by the Centre for Poisons

First aid treatment

Whatever household product is involved, you should:

  • Do nothing which could make the incident worse
  • Place the victim in a half-sitting position on the floor (where the victim is conscious)
  • Place the victim on their side, in the recovery position (where the victim is unconscious)
  • Loosen collars, ties and belts
  • Do not make the victim vomit unless told to do so by the Centre for Poisons

Never give someone who has been poisoned anything by mouth:

  • Do not give water which could carry the product further into their system, dissolve flakes, and extend and aggravate injuries, or create a froth which could suffocate a child by getting into their throat and airway
  • Do not give milk (it is not an antidote)
  • Do not give a neutralising product which will be ineffective given how quickly injuries occur, that is immediately
  • Do not give stomach medicines (for example: Phosphalugel®, Gaviscon®, Gelusil®) which could hamper examination of injuries by an ENT specialist

Precautions to prevent poisoning caused by household products

To prevent the risk of accidents:

  • Keep cleaning and maintenance products out of the reach of children: in high places if possible, or fit door and drawer safety locks on low storage furniture
  • Only buy dangerous products when you actually need to use them. Throw packaging in the bin, not in the fire, as a trace of leftover product could be enough to cause an explosion or fire
  • Leave cleaning and maintenance, gardening or DIY products in their original packaging: decanting them into old food containers is one of the principal causes of poisoning by ingestion
  • Never use two products together or one straight after another, for example baking soda for unblocking toilets and bleach. The chemical reactions caused when two products are mixed can result in the emission of toxic gases
  • Read the instructions carefully before using a product
  • Should you have any doubt about a product, seek advice on its characteristics by contacting the manufacturers’ consumer service department listed on the label. Centres for Poisons can also provide advice on the dangers associated with particular products and ways to prevent the accidents which they can cause
  • Learn to recognise hazard symbols. There are a number of leaflets which show the hazard symbols. Sticking one up in the kitchen is a good way of learning the symbols and making the whole family aware of them: adults and children