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Health Services > Queensland Poisons Information Centre

Winter dangers

Cough and Cold Medicines image
Winter is cough and cold season. Medicines to relieve the symptoms of coughs and colds are a common cause of poisoning. Store all medicines out of sight and reach of children.


Vaporiser Fluids image
The Queensland Poisons Information Centre does not encourage the use of chest rubs, vaporiser or inhalant fluids to treat coughs and colds, or for any other purpose.

Chest rubs and vaporiser fluids do not have any proven benefit. They can make you feel as though your airways are clearing but this is because camphor, menthol or eucalyptus oil make your nasal passages more sensitive to cold air. Chest rubs and vaporiser fluids do not have a decongestant effect.

The camphor and eucalyptus oil in chest rubs and vaporiser fluids are poisonous and can make children very sick if they swallow them. Each year Poisons Information Centres send many children to hospital after they have swallowed chest rub or vaporiser fluid.

If you think your child has swallowed a chest rub or vaporiser fluid contact the Poisons Information Centre immediately.

(Adapted with permission from the Victorian Poisons Information Centre)


Camphor Blocks and Camphorated Oil image
The Queensland Poisons Information Centre does not encourage the use of camphor blocks or camphorated oil for any purpose.

Camphor blocks or camphorated oil do not have any proven benefit:

There has been a report of a child dying after eating 1 gram of camphor. The average size camphor block (2.7 x 2.7 x 1 cm) weighs 7 grams. Camphorated oil contains 1 gram of camphor in 5 mL. Only a small part of a camphor block, or 5 mL of camphorated oil is potentially fatal. Camphor in liquid form is rapidly absorbed. Convulsions (fitting) can happen soon after eating camphor, within five minutes in some cases.

Any child who has definitely eaten camphor block or camphorated oil needs immediate medical assessment.

(Adapted with permission from the Victorian Poisons Information Centre)

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Storing clothes image
The Queensland Poisons Information Centre does not encourage the use of naphthalene (mothballs or flakes) as a moth repellent in baby clothes or bedding. Babies, particularly those less than six weeks of age, should not wear baby clothes or sleep in bedding stored with naphthalene.

Naphthalene is absorbed well through the skin, especially in young babies. Babies less than six weeks of age are very sensitive to small amounts of naphthalene because they cannot metabolise it. They can get severe poisoning if they have skin contact with baby clothes and bedding stored with naphthalene. This means your baby would get very sick and take a long time to recover.

Washing the baby's skin (or fabrics such as wool) with soap or detergent and water does not remove all of the naphthalene.

(Adapted with permission from the Victorian Poisons Information Centre)

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Last Updated: 01 October 2013
Last Reviewed: 01 October 2013