Parachute will take part in National Poison Prevention Week, from March 19 to 25 in 2023, to raise awareness about preventing unintentional poisoning.
Each year, 4,000 Canadians lose their lives due to poisoning and annual unintentional poisoning deaths have now surpassed transport-related deaths in Canada. With many potential poisons, such as medications, household cleaners and cannabis products in Canadian homes, it is important to know how to safely store them.
#RethinkPoisons: Know what can cause unintentional poisoning
There are many everyday household products – such as cleaners, personal care products, car supplies, pesticides and even some plants – that can be poisonous if ingested or used incorrectly.
Medications are the leading cause of poisoning in Canada. Prescription and over-the-counter medications can cause poisoning if taken by mistake or used incorrectly. In 2020, medications that relieve pain, known as analgesics, were the number one substance Canada’s poison centres received calls about.
In recent years, several new poisoning issues have also emerged that everyone should know about.
- Cannabis edibles often resemble common snacks (e.g., brownies, gummy candies). A young child may be unable to tell the difference.
- Cannabis edibles can have a stronger effect on the body than other forms of cannabis. Ingesting cannabis is the most common cause of cannabis poisoning in children.
- Liquid nicotine refills for e-cigarettes are sold in flavours that may be appealing to children. Nicotine can be harmful to a child if they put it in their mouth, swallow it or spill it on their skin.
Hand sanitizers and bleach
- The COVID-19 pandemic increased focus on hand washing, cleaning and disinfecting. The number of calls to poison centres regarding hand sanitizers, bleachers and disinfectants was significantly higher in 2020 and 2021, compared to 2019.
Laundry detergent pods
- Colourful, transparent laundry detergent pods may look like candies or toys to children. Laundry detergent pods can harm a child if ingested, or if the liquid gets into their eyes.
- Older adults with dementia can also be at risk of unintentionally consuming laundry detergent pods.
Know how to store poisons safely and prevent unintentional poisoning
- Keep all potential poisons locked up high, out of sight and out of reach of children. Put medications and other products away after every use.
- Keep products in their original, child-resistant packaging. Child-resistant packaging has been shown to reduce poisoning injuries and deaths.
- Keep medications, cleaners and other products in their original, labelled packaging to ensure you have instructions for use, avoid mix-ups and have information about the contents should you need to call a poison centre.
- Always read the label and check the dosage each time you give or take medicine, including over-the-counter and prescription medications.
- Avoid mixing different cleaning products together. Mixing can cause chemical reactions that produce dangerous gases.
- Avoid using cannabis products and e-cigarettes in front of children. Children often want to do the same things their parents and caregivers do.
Know what to do in case a poisoning occurs
Having an action plan in place can help you and your family respond quickly in the event of a poisoning.
If you suspect a poisoning has occurred:
- Contact a poison centre immediately.
- In case of a loss of consciousness or difficulty breathing, call 911.
Only 18 per cent of Canadians report knowing about local poison resources. Remember to keep your local poison centre phone number stored in your cellphone or in a visible location, such as on your fridge.
This program is made possible through a financial contribution from Health Canada; the views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Health Canada.