Take yourself back to that time when you were a super-curious explorer younger than age 6. You touched and tasted everything. You had no sense of danger and remembering to follow instructions was hard.

Now, walk this younger self around your home. Inspect whatever is within reach. Are the powerful chemicals, poisons and medications locked up? Good! But what about the dog food, hand lotion, toothpaste, lipstick, glue and crayons? What about the granules inside those “THROW AWAY, DO NOT EAT” packets that come in shoeboxes and purses? These items are colorful, easy to grasp and might be quite appealing to the young and curious.

Warning labels on these products vary. Some have labels that read “Keep out of reach of children” or “For external use only.” Some labels may state “nontoxic.” “Toxic” means harmful, but “nontoxic” is not the same as not harmful. There is no standard definition of “nontoxic.” Some product labels advise what to do in case of swallowing, while others have no instructions. 

It’s hard to keep everything out of reach, and that’s why our children need our watchful care. If your child tastes a potentially harmful item, take immediate action. Wipe the morsels off the child’s face and hands. Read the product label. Call the national toll-free Poison Help Hotline—800.222.1222—to access your regional Poison Control Center. The staff at the poison centers are available 24 hours a day to advise you.

The following items are generally thought to be harmless when a tiny amount is tasted:

  • Crayons
  • Dog or cat food
  • Glue
  • Hand soap
  • Lipstick
  • Over-the-counter antibiotic ointment
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Shampoo
  • Silica granules (in those packets that are labeled “THROW AWAY, DO NOT EAT”)
  • Toothpaste

However, this list is very general and not definitive! Product ingredients vary and are subject to change. If you have any questions or concerns, call the Poison Help Hotline at 800.222.1222.

This article was written by Diane DuBois, RN, a pediatric nurse at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Call Center.


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