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Tabletop Tiki Torches and Toddlers: A Warning, Our Scary Experience, and How You Can Protect Your Family

A Warning About Tabletop Tiki Torches and Toddlers

The following was typed during/after our very real, very scary experience with a tabletop tiki torch. Please be mindful of this before you comment. 

An innocent looking tabletop tiki torch....but we didn't know then what we do now.

Poison Control Number: (800)-222-1222

I am currently in the final minutes of one of the worst hours of my life. And thankfully it appears all is well. This morning, our 2 year old son swallowed tiki torch fuel. WHAT?! Yes. And we feel beyond horrible. My heart is still pounding and my hands are shaking as I type this. My 4 year old and 2 year old are 10 feet away from me watching PJ Masks (more on why in a bit) but this is still the worst I’ve ever felt as a parent. For that, I’m lucky. My husband and I are both lucky that we are currently at home and both of our children are contently watching a show.

About an hour ago, we were simply having a normal morning. I was about to make breakfast, the kids were playing outside, with the screen door closed, but easily viewed through the door and window screen. Just a typical morning, until it wasn’t. My son got into one of our tabletop tiki torches. While the bottle of tiki torch fuel was high out of reach (because that’s what we do with all chemicals, toiletries, and household cleaners to avoid what happened this morning)…the tabletop torch itself was within reach. And in less than a minute our two year old had opened the torch, poured the liquid from the internal container to the external container, and began to use the “cup” to drink the fuel. Those cups are intended to snuff out the flame, but to a two year old it’s the perfect size drinking cup.

**Noting that right as I typed here, I received a callback from the Poison Control Center to confirm that our 2 yr old is out of danger. So I’m breathing a bit easier now as I finish this up….**

Back to the story. We (my husband and I were just inside talking) looked out saw Marshall drink a gulp out of this little cup.It took seconds, and we immediately both went into action and simultaneously felt the world stop around us. I grabbed my phone to google poison control (Again, the Poison Control number is 800-222-1222 ) Travis brought him to me and checked on our 4 yr old to make sure she was okay and to keep her away in case something was severely wrong.


I panicked when I got the receptionist from Alaska (my phone number is still my Alaska number but I’ve lived in the Midwest for almost a decade), and told her “I need to get transferred to Michigan, this is just my Alaska number. Oh, wait. You still know everything sorry yea here’s what’s going on……”


She coached me through and said that the most dangerous part would be if he vomited and had aspiration. She was able to hear that he was acting normal over the phone. She had me give him 2-4 ounces of liquid. I first started with water and he just took a small drink, then I realized I’d made limeade the night before and gave him a cup of that (I first asked the responder, she said yes and chuckled at the excitement he had in yelling “juiiiiice!!!!”….That reaction from her put me a tinier bit at ease. The kids hardly ever get juice so he was super excited and drank that amount. Then she told us to monitor him closely for the next hour and to keep him from getting upset as that could cause aspiration. She asked if I wanted her to call back in an hour and I gladly accepted that offer.  So then…. we had to wait. And it was an agonizing hour. He had no clue what was going on and acted normal, but for us it was just heart wrenching. Thankfully the hour passed without issue. I asked the responder if I needed to follow up with the pediatrician and she said no it wasn’t necessary, that’d only be if I really wanted to. The danger was gone as the substance was no longer in his stomach (at risk of vomiting/aspiration). We’re lucky. So please take this as a warning and reminder. Even when you’re super careful. Even when you store your dishwasher tabs on the top shelf of your cupboard. Even when your household cleaners are plant based and can be swallowed yet you still store them on the top shelf in the hall closet just in case. Even when your laundry detergent is 6 ft off the ground. Even when every liquid in the garage is 6+ ft off the ground. Even when your alcohol is stored out of reach. Even THEN you can still end up calling poison control. 


So please take a few minutes to walk your house and outdoor area to just check that those things are out of reach, and that things like tabletop tiki torches are out of reach.

What We're Doing Now

Store the tabletop torches high out of reach in the garage unless they’re in use. Put away immediately after use.  Honestly, my biggest worry when we bought these was that the open flame would be on the table. I figured we would only have them on when us adults were sitting there. I didn’t consider them simply sitting out would be an issue….but I’ve got one super curious 2 year old. So please be extra extra careful. I don’t want any other parent to have a sick little one or experience the gut wrenching guilt that we did this morning or worse. Stay safe. -Rachel

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