How to Keep Your Baby from Swallowing Something Dangerous

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on April 21, 2021

Babies learn about the world by putting things -- anything -- into their mouths. Keeping watch over this habit can be a serious challenge for parents. It only takes a few seconds for an accident to happen.

Here are some things you can do to keep your baby from swallowing something they shouldn’t.

Always Keep an Eye on Them

An accident is more likely to happen if you lose track of what your baby is doing. Stay on high alert when there’s a change in your normal routine or you spend time in new surroundings that may not be childproofed.

Put Medicines Away

Lock up all drugs, vitamins, and herbs, or put them in a high cabinet out of reach. Even better, opt for child-resistant containers and tighten the caps after each use.

Secure Cleaning, Car, and Yard Supplies

These include:

  • Drain cleaner
  • Toilet bowl cleaner
  • Furniture polish
  • Kitchen cleaners
  • Antifreeze
  • Windshield wiper fluid
  • Gasoline
  • Lock de-icer
  • Fertilizer
  • Insecticides
  • Paint thinner

If you choose to store cleaners in a low cabinet, use safety latches that you can lock. When you’re using any of these items, never leave the bottle unattended.

Pick Up Behind Yourself

If you use e-cigarettes, buy liquid nicotine refills that come in childproof containers. You’ll still need to keep them out of baby’s sight and reach.

Always keep alcohol away from children. If you host a party, clean up well afterward. Pour all leftover drinks down the drain.

Avoid Lead Paint

High amounts of lead can cause severe damage to your baby’s body and brain. Don’t use any cribs, highchairs or toys made before 1978 -- that’s the year the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put in place regulations regarding the use of lead in the home. Your baby might swallow loose paint chips or lead dust.

If you live in an old home, remove all peeling paint up to 5 feet off the floor. You can also repaint to seal in the lead paint.

Be Aware of Other Household Hazards

Keep products that run on batteries away from your baby. Many items -- like car fobs, watches, and TV remotes -- rely on tiny button-type batteries that your baby can easily swallow.

Many types of houseplants can be harmful, too, if eaten. Either keep yours out of baby’s reach or only buy plants that aren’t toxic.

Store your purse in a closed closet, or on a shelf or hook, instead of on the floor. You don’t want to give your baby access to items like nail polish or hair spray that can be harmful if swallowed.

See Things From Your Baby’s Point of View

Get down on your hands and knees so you can see what they see. Then go through your house to find other items you may have missed. Close doors to all rooms in your home that you’re not able to childproof.

Keep an Eye Out for Choking Hazards

Remember, it’s not just poisonous items that can hurt your baby if swallowed. Many small items can get lodged in their throat. The following items are some of the most common choking hazards for babies:

  • Coins
  • Buttons
  • Small balls
  • Marbles
  • Hair bows and barrettes
  • Rubber bands
  • Pen caps
  • Refrigerator magnets
  • Small pieces of pet food

To keep your baby from putting any of these items in their mouth, sweep the floor and furniture before you let them roam free. Check under all furniture as well as under and between cushions.

Never let your baby play with toys meant for older children. These may have small parts that can come loose.

When to Get Help

If your little one does swallow something poisonous, call Poison Control right away, even if they are not showing symptoms. If your baby is unconscious or begins having seizures, call 911.

Show Sources


American Academy of Pediatrics: “Poison Prevention and Treatment Tips National Poison Prevention Week, March 19-25, 2017.”

National Capital Poison Center: “Poison & Prevention Information: By Age: Infants.” “Choking Prevention,” “Protect Your Child: Prevent Poisoning.”

KidsHealth from Nemours: “Household Safety: Preventing Poisoning.”

AboutKidsHealth: “Poison-Proof Your Home: A Guide to Keeping Your Family Safe From Poisons.”

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