March 17, 2010

Is it Harmful or Safe? How You Can Prevent Accidental Poisoning

You'd be able to tell the difference between safe, everyday household items and potentially toxic chemicals at a glance. Right?

You may be surprised. Common, household items such as juice, sports drinks and toothpaste could easily be mistaken for things that could be harmful if ingested.

Click here for an eye opening demonstration of "medicine mistaken identities"

Can you tell the difference?

You may look differently at the things around your home and that's a good thing during Poison Prevention Week (March 14 - 20). When we think about poison prevention, we may think of children - and that's a start but all ages are potentially at risk for poisoning.

Different age groups have varying concerns with respect to poison prevention. For children, the primary concern is them having access to toxic chemicals that can hurt them. For adolescents, poisoning may be accidental - such as unknowingly grabbing a drink of something that's a chemical - or it may be purposeful if they are at high risk for depression and/or suicide. For adults, particularly seniors, improper medication use is a concern. Doling medications out into convenient packaging may seem like a good idea but if it's incorrectly taken, the results can be deadly.

Child resistant packaging is a helpful means to reducing the number of children who ingest poisons by accident. That being said, child resistant packaging is not child proof. The very reason children under the age of five are at risk for poisoning is because their developmental age prompts them to be curious and resourceful. If they can't find a way to get into the packaging with their hands, they may use their teeth or other means to satisfy their curiosity.

"There is no one incident that we see more than others," says Dr. Milt Tenenbein, Director of Manitoba Poison Control Centre and Director of Emergency Services, Children's Hospital. "But every incident with respect to poison emergencies is preventable."

Tips for Prevention

  1. Properly close child resistant packaging after use.

  2. Keep medicine and chemicals out of sight.

  3. Lock up medicine and chemicals.

  4. Store items in their original containers so labels can be read.

  5. Never leave chemicals and children unattended. If the phone rings or someone's at the door, bring the child or the chemical with you to prevent an incident.

  6. Take and give medication with the lights on.

  7. Lamp oil is toxic. Keep decorative lamps and candles out of reach of children.

  8. Avoid taking medicine in front of children and never refer to it as candy.

  9. Clean out your medicine cabinet regularly. Drop off out of date medicine and prescriptions at your local pharmacy, who can safely dispose of them.

  10. Educate your kids about labels. Click here for more information.

Even if you don't have children, it's important to remember to consider children who visit your home could be at risk. Keep unsafe chemicals and potential risks out of reach of children.

The Poison Hotline

The Poison Hotline provides immediate assessment and treatment advice during poison emergencies. Services are available 24 hours a day. In a poison emergency, call: Poison Control Centre 787-2591.

Typical questions you may be asked:

  • How old is the person?

  • What did they ingest?

  • When?

  • How? Did the inhale it, swallow it, get splashed with it or have their skin absorb it?

  • Has the person vomited?

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