How to keep kids safe from medications and other household poisons

UAlberta expert offers 4 tips to prevent a health risk that causes a quarter of all injury-related deaths in Alberta each year.

Death by poisoning is a very serious problem in Alberta that tends to fall under the radar, according to the University of Alberta's Injury Prevention Centre.

"Poisoning-related deaths accounted for 24 per cent of all injury-related deaths in Alberta between 2011 and 2015. That's a big deal," said Kathy Belton, associate director of the School of Public Health's Injury Prevention Centre.

"And poisoning caused between 1,700 hospitalizations and another 1,400 emergency department visits annually. The numbers won't have changed much by 2018," she added.

Belton said there are easy prevention steps people can take to help protect against the risk of poisoning-which can occur intentionally, unintentionally or experimentally-especially in children.

"National Poison Prevention Week, March 18-24, is the perfect time to pay extra attention to risks to ensure loved ones are safe," said Belton. Here's how:

Keep all prescriptions and over-the-counter medications locked up tight, out of sight and in their original containers.

"Improperly stored medications are the leading cause of childhood poisoning in Alberta," said Belton. "In 2016, 1,723 children under 10 years old visited emergency departments for unintentional poisoning, and medication was involved in seven out of 10 of these visits."

She added that child-resistant medication containers are not childproof, which is why it is necessary to conceal medication in out-of-reach places.

When taking your medications, do it away from children.

"Children often copy the actions of their parents," explained Belton, who added that you should not refer to medicine as candy.

"Always read and follow the instructions carefully when taking your own medication, even if it's a medication you take regularly. And never take someone else's medication," added Belton.

Guests, family or friends may bring medications into your home. Put purses, backpacks and coats out of children's reach.

"Have a conversation with family, especially grandparents who may be carrying around medicines, about ensuring their purses and coats are stored away from children's reach."

Anything that can be ingested may be a poison.

"Sometimes people don't think about things that could be poisonous to children, such as diaper cream or indoor house plants," said Belton. "Scan your house and remove any items that might be accidentally ingested by children."

visit the Injury Prevention Centre website for additional information, resources and toolkits that can be use to help promote poison prevention.

What to do in case of poisoning!

The Poison and Drug Information Service (PADIS) received more than 16,200 calls in 2017 concerning unintentional poisoning incidents involving young children.

If you are concerned someone you know has been poisoned, you should call PADIS immediately at 1-800-332-1414, said Kathy Belton, associate director of the School of Public Health's Injury Prevention Centre.

This is Public Health

Get updates on This is Public Health news and events.

Sign up for news and updates

More articles