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Baby and Child First Aid

Questions and answers about first aid for babies and children: poisoning and harmful substances

Here are some questions people often ask. If you have a question that isn’t answered here, please feel free to email us at firstaid@redcross.org.uk or use this form.

Q

What are poisons and harmful substances?

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Answer

These are substances that can cause harm to your baby or child if swallowed. Examples include drugs (prescribed or un-prescribed), chemicals (including household cleaning products) and some plants.

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Q

How can I tell if my baby or child has taken poison or another harmful substance?

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Answer

They may vomit or have abdominal pain, or you may see empty containers nearby. They may have evidence of the harmful substance around their mouth, or smell of it. Babies and children can have different reactions to harmful substances, and sometimes it may take some time for symptoms to occur. If in doubt, seek medical advice.

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Q

Can I make the baby or child sick?

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Answer

No, making them sick can cause more damage to their throat or block their airway. If they have swallowed something corrosive, the liquid will burn the throat on the way back up, causing more pain and distress.

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Q

Can I give the baby or child something to drink if they have taken a harmful substance?

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No, don’t give them anything to drink. The fluid will enter their stomach and break down the harmful substance. This may result in the harmful substance being absorbed into their body more quickly.

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Q

What should I do while I wait for the ambulance to arrive?

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Discourage them from running around or moving too much. If it is a baby, you could cradle them in your arms, while a child could sit quietly with you. Reassure them and listen to what they tell you.

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Q

What should I do if the baby or child becomes unresponsive but they are still breathing?

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What should I do if I’m not sure whether my baby or child has taken poison or another harmful substance?

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Seek medical advice or take the baby or child to hospital, even if they seem to be showing no signs or symptoms.

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Q

What should I do if the baby or child becomes unresponsive and stops breathing?

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