Are Childproof Containers Really Childproof?

When it comes to your child’s safety, keeping medicine and household chemicals in containers with childproof lids is a must. But just because something is supposedly childproof doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to keep out your clever, determined kid. Keep your toddler or preschooler safe with a combination of child-resistant containers and common sense.

Childproof Containers

Childproof containers are supposed to be difficult for small children to open -- especially important when the bottles contain medicine or household products that could be toxic if ingested. Some substances, including prescription medication and household chemicals, are required by law to have child-resistant packaging. In some parts of the country, people without children in the home can request alternative packaging that isn’t child-resistant.


Child-resistant containers can save your child’s life, but they aren’t foolproof 1. According to a 1996 study by Dr. Gregory B. Rodgers published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, childhood deaths from accidental ingestion of prescription medication have dropped 45 percent since the development of child-resistant packaging in 1974 23. However, many kids still figure out how to open these containers on their own. Real kids test child-resistant packaging before it is used on real products, and the Consumer Products Safety Commission considers packaging to be child-resistant if 80 percent of kids under age 5 cannot open it.


If packaging says it is child-resistant or the adults in your household have trouble opening it, you should still use caution. After all, your child could still be among the 20 percent of kids who figure it out. To be on the safe side, keep all medicine and household products out of reach of children, preferably in a locked cabinet. Don’t put medicine or dangerous liquids in anything other than their original containers -- kids might mistake them for something edible. Avoid taking medicine in front of your child, too. He might think it is food or candy and try to find it later when you aren’t looking.


The Consumer Products Safety Commission has been working with manufacturers since 1998 to develop child-resistant packaging that is safer for kids but easier for elderly or handicapped people to open. Instead of traditional squeeze-and-turn lids, newer versions use different tricks to keep kids out. Lids that require the user to line up colored dots or follow a specific sequence of actions might be too difficult for small children to figure out but easy for an adult to use.