Are there poisons lurking in your purse?

That may feel like a strange question. But it’s a very real one, particularly when you’re frequently around small kids. And with the holidays come even more opportunities to encounter little ones.

For many women, their purse is their lifeline. In it, they throw all the things they might need for any reason during a given day — from medicine to lip gloss to hand sanitizer and everything in between. You may even have a protein bar in there, in case you need a meal on the go.

But have you ever really thought about the dangers that might be inside? It’s important to consider, particularly since the holiday season often brings you into contact with acquaintances, friends and family you don’t often see or visit.

Think about it — purses and even overnight bags are often tossed carelessly to the side when a person comes into a home or a restaurant. You put your bag down and greet the people you’re visiting with, with little regard to who might have access to the things in your purse.

But even though the items in your purse might not be “poisons” to you, they might be to little ones and pets.

Let’s parse through the average purse and some of those poisons that could be lurking inside:

Potential poisons: Medications

This one’s pretty common sense and probably comes immediately to mind. But both prescription and OTC meds can be incredibly dangerous if taken by someone other than the person they’re intended for.

If you’re keeping medications in your purse, you’ll want to be certain they’re in childproof containers, but it’s also important to keep your purse entirely out of reach, as well. It’s not enough to just keep an eye on it.

Kids ingesting meds can experience a full range of issues, ranging from minor to extremely serious and even deadly.

It’s also important to consider that some medications, like certain laxatives for example, can resemble candy, making them even more appealing to kids.

Potential poisons: Pepper spray

Many women have this on hand in their purse to fend off potential assailants. But just like it can have incredibly irritating (and intended) effects on dangerous people, it can have those same effects on unintended victims, like kids.

If a child pulls out pepper spray and accidentally sprays it, it may irritate his or her eyes and skin and potentially cause breathing problems. And if the spray is ingested, that can cause pain, nausea, vomiting and even difficulty breathing.

Potential poisons: Cigarettes

You know the dangers of smoking around children, but have you ever thought about what happens if they’re mistaken for something edible?

A pack of cigarettes in a purse can be appealing to a child, particularly a little one who puts anything and everything in his or her mouth.

Swallowing a whole or partial cigarette can result in nausea, upset stomach and vomiting. Nicotine gum and even the cartridges of e-cigarettes can have similarly dangerous effects.

Potential poisons: Hand sanitizer

This is a common item in purses today, especially during flu season. While it can be helpful to have on hand in the case no soap and water is available, hand sanitizer is often highly alcohol-based, making it dangerous to consume.

Think about this: Hand sanitizer often comes in enticing scents, like peach or peppermint. A child may think that good smelling also equates to good tasting.

But a small amount of hand sanitizer consumed can be dangerous, leading to alcohol poisoning, vomiting, seizures and even a loss of consciousness.

Potential poisons: Coins

This one isn’t a poison, per se, but it can have dangerous effects. If a child swallows a coin, it doesn’t always have a negative outcome.

But depending on how the coin travels through the body, it can become dangerous if it lodges at any point in the digestive tract, creating a blockage.

The same is true of items that contain button batteries, which can be even more dangerous since they can also cause burns in the esophagus or digestive tract.

The bottom line about potential poisons

Think ahead to make sure your home — and any environment you encounter during the holidays — are safe from potential hazards. If your purse or bag contain dangerous items like those outlined above, or others like nail polish remover or perfume, be sure to keep them out of little hands.

If a child or teen does ingest or come in contact with something potentially hazardous, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Seek medical attention and let the doctor know what the child has been exposed to.

While in some cases accidentally ingesting poisons may not have serious side effects, it’s important to have the child checked out regardless.

No family wants to experience an emergency. But if yours does, specialized pediatric emerency services are available at Children’s Hospital at Erlanger. Your child can get the care he or she needs, close to home.