It is widely recommended by pediatricians that syrup of ipecac for secondary prevention of poisoning be kept in homes where there are young children. To evaluate the efficacy of this recommendation we measured mother's gain in knowledge of how to use ipecac safely at home. The study population (n = 78) were primarily middle class mothers bringing their 9-month-old infants to one pediatrician at a health maintenance organization for a well-baby visit. The pediatrician delivered health education on poisonings. A before-after study design was used. The highly significant (p less than 0.001) gain in knowledge demonstrates that parents can learn to use ipecac safely at home. The practitioner should limit safety counseling to selected areas most problematic at each age level, and within each topic, should concentrate on the most salient points.