Every hour one child in British Columbia is poisoned, yet the majority of these incidents are preventable. Children from birth to five years old are at a high risk for unintentional poisoning that frequently results in hospitalization.
Young children are curious and may encounter hazardous substances as they explore their environment. Poisonings are most likely to occur when a child’s daily routine is disrupted, or when substances are in use and not returned to safe storage. Hazardous substances include medicines, household products, cosmetics, vitamins, pesticides and plants.
“Poisoning is the second leading cause of injury hospital admissions in children under five,” said Island Health Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Richard Stanwick. “Thankfully, it only takes a few simple steps to reduce the risk of poisoning by securing harmful substances and keeping children under five safe.”
During Poison Prevention Week 2017 (March 20-26), Island Health is encouraging parents and caregivers to help prevent poisoning in children:
Poison prevention tips
- Store medicines and household products in a locked cabinet.
- Keep products in their original labelled containers.
- Use only child-resistant containers.
- Return medicines and products to a safe place after use.
- Read the label before using a medicine or product.
If a poisoning is suspected, call the B.C. Drug and Poison Information Centre at 1-800-567-8911 or dial 911 immediately.
Poison-related hospitalization rates on Vancouver Island
On Vancouver Island, children aged 0-19 years were hospitalized for unintentional poisoning at a rate of 23.21 per 100,000 population, compared to 19.10 for B.C. According to Parachute Canada, B.C. has higher rates than Ontario (13.58) and Manitoba (18.24), but much lower rates than Saskatchewan (43.31) and Canada’s northern Territories (43.13).
Top three poison exposures for young children
- Pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- Cleaning products, including bleach, detergents, and all-purpose cleaners
- Cosmetics and personal care products, such as toothpaste and creams
- B.C. Drug and Poison Information Centre
- HealthLink BC
- Canadian Association of Poison Control Centres
- Parachute Canada