Hazards in the handbag and the home

Kinderling News & Features

Kids are inquisitive and love to explore. Often that includes delving into what’s right in front of them – your handbag (or manbag!), the nappy bag, swimming bag and pockets.

However, we can sometimes forget that some everyday items can harm and even poison children if they get their hands on them. McKeely Maney, Child Injury Prevention Project Officer for Kidsafe South Australia, shares a few items parents need to be vigilant about with little ones around. 

Listen to McKeely’s interview on Kinderling Conversation:


All medications are bad for children when consumed accidentally, but paracetamol is one common drug that’s often overlooked. A lot of us keep this on hand in your bag, car, on bedside tables… as it’s a medication we feel we often need around. Unfortunately, it’s also attractive for kids to play with. 

“Kids love to pop them out of the blister pack and put them in their mouth, but this can be fatal,” says McKeely. 

She also notes that since kids develop quickly, it’s not just the blister packs but also the childproof caps that can be a risk. They are not designed to stop young ones completely, just slow them down. 

McKeely says that not only parents should be thinking about this, but older brothers and sisters, friends and grandparents, “It should be at the front of everybody’s mind.” 

Hand sanitiser 

“Another dangerous one is hand sanitiser. Not everyone is aware that hand sanitiser has a high alcohol percentage,” says McKeeley. 

For a child to ingest some, it can be toxic. They could become violently ill, so make a decision whether it’s necessary to carry this around every day. Think about whether you can use alternatives instead, like hand wipes.


Like hand sanitiser, perfume contains alcohol, plus a lot of chemicals, too. It smells good, so if kids get their hands on it, it could be toxic if consumed. 

Dishwashing tablets 

“This is one we’d love parents to keep an eye out for. Lots of people keep dishwashing tablets and liquids under the sink, which makes them fairly accessible to children,” explains McKeeley. 

When you’ve got the dishwasher open, unpacking it, toddlers as well as crawlers can access it.   If the entire tablet has not dissolved after the cycle, young children could swallow even just little pieces of the undissolved tablet. These substances are caustic, which means it will burn the child’s oesophagus. 

Button batteries 

“We know that more and more items use button batteries to power them,” says McKeeley. If swallowed, they can set up an electric chemical reaction in the throat within an hour. Check the home for where button batteries might be. Be careful that when you dispose of them, and make sure they’re inaccessible to children. 

Remember, if you or a loved one needs urgent medical care, but your GP is closed call 13SICK (that’s 13 7435) for an after hours, bulk-billed, doctor home visit.