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About Sickkids
About SickKids

March 17, 2014

Tips from the Ontario Poison Centre: Keeping your family safe from poisons around the home

By Heather Hudson, Advanced Nursing Practice Educator, Ontario Poison Centre

A mother walks into the bathroom, only to find her toddler playing with an open bottle of pills. Panic-stricken, many questions go through her head. How did he reach them? How could he have opened that bottle on his own? Did he eat any of them?  Most importantly, is he going to be okay?

With products and medications on the market that look like colourful candy or sugary drinks, young children may ingest these products without a parent or caregiver seeing them do it. Children under six years old are most at risk for unintentional poisoning. Their innate curiosity and desire to explore their environment by putting things in their mouths can be very dangerous.

This National Poison Prevention Week, March 16-22, the Ontario Poison Centre can help you learn how to keep your family safe from unintentional poisoning with these five tips:

Lock it up
Keep your cleaning products and medications locked up tight and out of sight! Keep all medicine, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, natural or herbal remedies and vitamins, in a locked cupboard or box. The OPC recommends a tool box with a lock. Do not store medicine in your purse, diaper bag or other places that may be easily accessible to children. Household chemicals and cleaning products can be kept in a cupboard with a safety latch. Remember, even young children can climb and find things that you think are well-hidden.

Be cautious of “child-proof”
Nothing is really child-proof, but some packaging is child-resistant with the goal of making it harder, but not impossible, for the child to open. The goal is to delay a child from accessing the contents of the bottle. Relying on the protective mechanisms of the container is a common mistake that may lead to unintentional childhood poisoning. If a child has been left alone long enough or he or she is particularly handy, the bottle can be opened. Also make sure that the lids are closed properly. They will only work if used correctly!

Look out for lookalikes
The most common types of products that children get into include over-the-counter pain medicine containing acetaminophen or ibuprofen, household cleaners, personal care products and vitamins. Many of these products can look like harmless substances that children normally ingest, such as parmesan cheese or sports drinks. To prevent children from accessing and potentially ingesting these products, store them in their original containers and lock them up.

Do not induce vomiting
If someone swallows a toxic substance it may seem like the obvious solution is to get it back out. But did you know making someone vomit can make things much worse? Never induce vomiting; instead call your local poison centre and follow the directions provided by the Poison Specialist on the line.

Be prepared
Always remember to keep the number of the Ontario Poison Centre close by. Program it into your contact list on your cell phone. You can receive expert poison advice 24 hours a day by calling 1-800-268-9017 or visit www.ontariopoisoncentre.com/

The good news is unintentional poisonings can be prevented. It is important for parents and caregivers to be informed in order to prevent unintentional poisoning. Making a few simple changes in your home may possibly save your child from the dangers of poisons!

About the Ontario Poison Centre
The Ontario Poison Centre in Toronto has been serving the general public and healthcare professionals throughout Ontario since 1979. Although the Poison Centre is located at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), our clientele includes both children and adults. The primary role of the Poison Centre is to provide telephone information and advice exposures to poisonous substances. In addition to its primary role, the Poison Centre also collects information on poisoning cases, generates and distributes poison prevention material, and participates in medical toxicology research. For more information, please visit www.ontariopoisoncentre.com or call 1-800-268-9017.