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How Hazardous is Your Handbag?

Is your purse a bottomless treasure trove of supplies? You name it, it’s probably in your purse right now. That’s why you never go anywhere without it. Well, your kids have caught on to the magic of your “Poppins-esque” handbag and they’ll do anything to dig around in it when they’re bored. To discuss the dangers of items in your purse, we spoke with Bryan Kuhn, PharmD, a pharmacist and poison education specialist at the Banner Poison and Drug Information Center.

“If your child searches your purse for a snack or their favorite toy car, they may find something they weren’t looking for,” said Dr. Kuhn. “What’s dangerous for them may seem completely harmless to you.” He identified 11 hazards in your purse that could present a danger to your child (or pet). Some are more dangerous than others.

Most dangerous

These items could be potentially deadly. If consumed, call the Poison and Drug Information Center at (800) 222-1222 and be ready to go to the emergency department.

  • Medication: Carrying pills in your purse may be necessary to your health. If so, be sure they are sealed in their original packaging. No bottle is truly child-proof, but it could buy you a little time and the label will help you describe what and how much your child ingested.
  • Cigarettes and vape cartridges: Cigarettes contain many toxins and could be dangerous if eaten by a child. Vape cartridges present an even larger risk for children because they are concentrated.
  • Weapons: Guns, knives and other weapons pose an obvious threat to children. You may not think about your multitool or pocketknife with concern, but it’s just as important to keep these away from curious hands.


If your child ingests too much of these items, they could become ill. Call the Poison & Drug Information Center and keep a close eye on your child.

  • Colognes and perfumes: These are typically made with alcohol and chemicals. They could be very dangerous if ingested.
  • Pepper spray: Pepper spray canisters are getting more subtle, small and cleverly designed. To children, they may look like toys. If sprayed in the eyes or mouth, your child may see a very serious reaction. Even if sprayed away from them or onto their hands, it can be dangerous.
  • Hand sanitizer: Alcohol-based sanitizers could be dangerous to a child if swallowed. Even a few mouthfuls could result in symptoms of alcohol poisoning.

Potentially dangerous

Although these items are less dangerous, they can still be harmful. If your child looks uncomfortable after getting into these items, be ready to call for guidance.

  • Cosmetics: “These are generally made of natural ingredients. Even so, they are not meant to be eaten,” said Dr. Kuhn. “If you’ve ever seen a curious kid eat a whole tube of chap stick, you’ll understand the temptation they pose for children.”
  • Sunscreen or lotion: These containers look a lot like toothpaste or squeezable yogurt. The sweet aromas add extra temptation.
  • Bug spray: Bug spray is a great protectant to carry. However, this could be uncomfortable if sprayed in the eyes or mouth.
  • Keys: Not only are keys sharp, but they are usually crawling with bacteria. Your child may have a similar-looking keychain of teething aids. Keys are not a safe chew toy.
  • Choking hazards: Coins, small toys, jewelry, buttons, candy and gum are among the most common choking hazards found in a purse. The list goes on. Keep them all out of reach.

Protecting your child from purse-related peril

The items listed above are dangerous, but things like medication, hand sanitizers and keys are typically necessary purse inclusions. Dr. Kuhn noted, “Keeping your handbag safe is about more than leaving certain things at home. There are a lot of things you can do to secure your bag from curious fingers.”

  • Bags with zippers may not buy you a lot of time, but they keep items from falling out and into harm’s way.
  • Small, dangerous items like medication and choking hazards can be kept in a sealed container within the purse as an extra line of defense.
  • When your child asks for something, get it for them rather than inviting them to get it from the purse themselves.
  • Keep toys and snacks in another bag to make your handbag less appealing to children.

If you have questions regarding household poisons or if someone in your home may have been poisoned, contact the Banner Poison & Drug Information Center at (800) 222-1222.

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