You may have heard that it’s a good idea to keep ipecac in your medicine cabinet in case your baby swallows anything he shouldn’t. Ipecac is a medication that induces vomiting, so it seems to make sense as a treatment in that case. Though doctors used to agree, newer research shows that you shouldn’t actually use ipecac when your child consumes something harmful. If you have it on hand, it’s best to throw it away. It’s a bad idea for a few reasons.

Studies show that in the time it takes for the ipecac to induce the vomiting, any poisonous liquid will have already been absorbed into your baby’s body. So, instead of rushing to get medical attention when your baby swallows something, you’ll be waiting for a solution that won’t actually help. Similarly, there are some poisonous chemicals that cause as much damage coming up as they did going down. Making your baby throw up something like bleach will only cause it to make contact with the esophagus yet again.

Additionally, you might accidentally make your baby throw up too much by giving him too much ipecac. Unless you’re a professional physician, you’re probably not entirely sure how much is too much. When you induce too much vomiting, your baby could quickly become dehydrated and the problem will get much worse.

Finally, ipecac is never a good idea when your baby swallows something poisonous because it might interfere with proper treatment once you arrive at the hospital. Sometimes, doctors need the poison to still be present in the body to get it out easily.

No matter what your baby has swallowed, don’t reach for the ipecac. Instead, write down exactly how much was consumed and call your local poison control center. You should also consider bringing the bottle so that they can quickly identify the problem and the risks. Ipecac might only make the problem worse in a number of ways, so leave it to the professionals. The best way to solve the problem is to prevent it entirely. Baby-proof your home before the day of delivery to keep your toddler from finding the harmful chemicals in your home. While you’re putting locks on the medicine cabinets and cupboards, grab the ipecac and throw it away. If you read a book or website that suggests you use it when your baby swallows something, the source is probably outdated.

Source: J Hojer et al: Position Paper Update: Ipecac Syrup for Gastrointestinal Decontamination. Clinical Toxicology Volume 51 Issue 3 pp. 134-139 March 2013