Poison Prevention Week (March 17 – 23) highlights the problem of childhood poisonings and reminds parents and caregivers to keep poisons out of reach of children.
Each year, more than 25,000 poisonings are reported to the BC Drug and Poison Information Centre (DPIC) and nearly half of these involve children. Toddlers between the ages of one to three years have the highest rate of poisoning.
The most common “poisons” affecting children are cleaning substances, pain and fever medications, vitamins, and plants. The most serious are medications belonging to adults or older children, especially prescription pain killers, sedatives, and medicine for diabetes or heart disease. Once-a-day gradual-release medications can be especially lethal for children.
Children investigate purses or backpacks and may find medicines in zip-lock bags or daily dosette containers. In some cases parents assume that children can’t open “child-proof” caps when, in fact, caps on pill bottles are actually “child-resistant” and children can open them with enough time.
Grandparents need to remember to keep their medications out of sight and out of reach of children and to remove their medications from purses and luggage when they visit a grandchild’s home. Studies have shown that grandparents’ medications are involved in 10-20% of poisonings in young children.
If you think your child has been exposed to a medication or chemical, call DPIC’s Poison Control Centre at 604-682-5050 or 1-800-567-8911. DPIC is a program of the BC Centre for Disease Control. It offers a 24-hour telephone support and advice line staffed by pharmacists and nurses who provide expert treatment advice on chemical or medicine poisonings and overdoses.
Poison awareness and first aid pamphlets are available in Chinese, English, French, Korean, Persian, Punjabi, Spanish, and Vietnamese. Other materials include a “Plant Awareness” pamphlet, posters, and phone stickers and magnets. Materials are free of charge for BC residents and can be obtained from www.dpic.org, by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 604-707-2789, extension 3.