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Swallowed substance

2-minute read

It is fairly easy to swallow a substance accidentally. This includes liquids, powders and some solid items, such as medicines or drugs.

Common household and garden products are often swallowed by accident. Most of these are considered to be of low toxicity when swallowed and are not likely to cause any significant harm.

If you are unsure, you can call the Poisons Information Line 24 hours a day from anywhere in Australia on 13 11 26.

Some common substances that are swallowed include:

  • cleaning products
  • bleach
  • paints or paint cleaning products
  • make-up and cosmetics
  • plant food
  • ink
  • air fresheners or aromatherapy oils
  • medicines.

Storing medicines safely

Here are some tips on how to keep your medicines stored safely:

  • Try to keep medicine in its original packaging, as this will include the ingredients, dosage instructions and expiry date.
  • A medicine cabinet is a good place for storage. It should be high enough off the ground that children cannot access the cabinet or its contents. Ideally, it should be at least 150 cm off the ground, with a lock.
  • Take medicines that you don’t need anymore, or that are out of date, to your local pharmacy and they will dispose of them safely.

Read more about treatments for swallowed substances.

If you suspect that someone has taken an overdose or has been poisoned do not try to treat them yourself. Get medical help immediately.

If the person is showing signs of being seriously ill, such as vomiting, loss of consciousness, drowsiness or seizures (fits), call triple zero (000) for an ambulance, or take the person to the closest emergency department.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about a swallowed substance, check your symptoms with healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2017

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