Poison Prevention Week March 16 – 22

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What poisons could be hiding in your purse?


Poison Prevention Week is March 16 to 22 and the IWK Regional Poison Centre and Child Safety Link are partnering to raise awareness about everyday items that people carry in their purses that could be poisonous to children.


“Over the past three years, the IWK Regional Poison Centre has received an average of four calls a day about medication-related poisonings involving children five years and younger,” says Laurie Mosher, clinical leader of the IWK Regional Poison Centre in a media release. “Handbags are one of the ways children are accessing these poisons.”


“Poison Prevention Week is a great time to remind parents and caregivers to think about ways they can protect children from coming into contact with dangerous substances at home,” says Sandra Newton, manager of the IWK’s Child Safety Link program. “Many people are diligent about locking up their household cleaners and medicines, but don’t realize how dangerous some of the items are that they carry around with them every day.”


According to the IWK Regional Poison Centre, there are five items commonly found in purses that need extra vigilance:


·         Medication: Kids can be attracted to pills because they can look or taste like candy, with bright colours and sugary coatings. However, young children are especially vulnerable to medication because of their smaller size and weight and can be seriously injured by even common medicines (e.g. acetaminophen) or supplements (e.g. iron pills).

·         Toothpaste: Many types of toothpaste contain sodium fluoride, which is meant for topical purposes to prevent tooth decay. However, if it is swallowed in a large quantity, it mixes with stomach juices to create a poison that can result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or in more extreme cases, low blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat.

·         Nicotine: Cigarettes, nicotine gum and some electronic cigarettes can be a poisoning risk for children. A small child can suffer effects of nicotine poisoning from ingesting just one cigarette. Nicotine gum is especially problematic as it is packaged just like regular bubblegum, which many kids love.

·         Alcohol:  Perfumes, hand sanitizers, mouthwashes—these cosmetic items all contain concentrated alcohol, and can be attractive to small children because of their colour or scent. Symptoms of alcohol poisoning can range from vomiting to seizures, to unconsciousness.

·         Coins: Swallowing a coin could be harmless, if it passes through the digestive system, but can become very dangerous if it becomes lodged at any point in the digestive tract.

Child Safety Link recommends the following tips to help prevent unintentional poisonings:

·         Keep purses out of reach of small children—both your own and those of visitors.

·         If you carry medication with you, keep it in its original, child-resistant container, not in a plastic baggie or pill container. Remember that “child-resistant” packaging does not mean “child proof”—given enough time, many children can learn how to access a bottle or container.

·         Teach your children not to swallow toothpaste while they are brushing their teeth.

·         Keep emergency numbers, such as the IWK Regional Poison Centre number, near the phone. In the event that your child could be poisoned, contact your regional poison information centre. Do not wait for symptoms to show; it is best to call for help if you suspect any poisoning.

If you think your child may have been poisoned, all the Poison Centre at 1-800-565-8161 (NS and PEI only) or call 911. The IWK Regional Poison Centre is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week as a confidential source of information on poisons and poison exposures. The Poison Centre is staffed by Specialists in Poison Information, and takes calls about possible poisonings for people of all ages.

As part of Poison Prevention Week, the public is encouraged to visit the Child Safety Link website at www.childsafetylink.ca for tips on keeping kids safe from medicine and other poisonings at all ages and stages.

Organizations: IWK Regional Poison Centre

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