Medication is the leading cause of poisoning in children. Even small amounts of adult medication can be fatal to your child. Other causes of poisoning are:
- household cleaners
- personal care products, such as mouthwash or nail polish
- garden products
- car supplies
Many children have swallowed poisonous products that were not stored properly or were taken out of their original container.
The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates an average of three deaths each year in Canada among children aged 14 years and younger from unintentional poisoning and another 900 are hospitalized with serious injuries.
Keep laundry detergents, including single-unit dose packets, secured and out of reach of children. Like many other household products, detergents must be used as directed, and safely and properly stored. Follow #PreventPoison for information and resources or visit Health Canada.
A Canadian Paediatrics Society study of injuries associated with liquid detergent packets treated by paediatricians gathered information on 54 children with injuries following exposure. The study found that more than half of these children 56 per cent were less than two years of age and another 43 per cent were aged two to four years.
Many children swallow poisonous products that were not stored properly or were taken out of their original container.
Make your home a poison-free zone
Keep all potential poisons locked up and out of reach of children. As your child grows, she or he becomes increasingly active and can more easily reach and open cabinets.
Store poisons in a cabinet that is high up and can be locked using a lock, with the key stored in a hidden location, or with a latch that cannot be opened by a child. When it comes to small items such as medications, experts recommend using a locked box placed on a high shelf.
Keep all medication in original child-resistant packaging. Young children explore their world by putting things in their mouths. Child-resistant packaging is required by law for certain medications. It reduces the chance of your child being poisoned. However, a small percentage of children are still able to open medication containers. It is best to use medicine containers that contain small doses.
Never refer to medicine as candy. Be extra careful with medicines that may taste good to your child, such as chewable vitamins and fruit-flavoured syrups. Children learn by touching, tasting and by imitating others.
Always read the label and check the dosage each time you give or take medicine. Keep products in their original container, to help you remember the medication and the dosage.
When visitors come to your home, make sure they keep their purses, bags, etc. out of your child's reach. Visitors may have unsafe and dangerous products with them. Keep their belongings out of your child's reach just as you do your own.
As cannabis becomes a legal drug for adults in Canada remember that this drug, just like alcohol and prescription drugs, can do serious harm to children and needs to be stored securely.
Store all cannabis products as you would medications and other potentially toxic products– locked up and out of reach. Currently while some forms cannabis are legal, there are no regulations or packaging laws for safe storage of the drug, so adults must be extra vigilant about safe storage.
A tracking study by the Ontario, Manitoba and Nunavut poison control centres shows that, from 2013 to 2017, there was a 50-per-cent increase – from 116 to 234 annually - of calls concerning cannabis exposure for toddlers to those age 18.
And while edible cannabis products won’t be legal in Canada until October 2019, parents and other adults need to remember that edibles look like the sweet snacks most kids love: from brownies to gummy bears, a child (or an adult) can’t see the difference between an edible and the same products without cannabis.
Children are more sensitive to the effects of the active ingredients in cannabis: It’s detrimental to the developing brain and has been linked to the precipitation of psychosis in youth. A child may be naïve to cannabis and may have unexpected effects from an exposure.
Follow our hashtag #PotCanPoisonKids on social media to learn more.
If you choose to have cannabis in your home, follow these safety tips to ensure children are not accidentally exposed to the drug.
Cannabis safety and exposure prevention tips
- Storage: Store all cannabis products as you would medications and other potentially toxic products – locked up and out of reach in child-resistant packaging or containers. Clearly label cannabis edibles, and store them in their original packaging.
- Use and supervision: Always put cannabis products back into the child-resistant packaging and in the locked and out-of-reach location immediately after using them: be particularly vigilant cleaning up after a party, removing any remnants of alcohol and drugs. Avoid consuming cannabis in any form in front of children, either for medical or recreational purposes. Not only can seeing the products create temptation, but using them may impair your ability to provide a safe environment.
- Talk to family members, friends and caregivers: Unintentional cannabis exposure sources can be from a parent, but grandparents, other family members, neighbours, friends, and babysitters are also sources. Ask anyone in whose home your children spend time if they use cannabis. If a relative, friend or caregiver does, make sure he or she stores it safely and avoids use it in front of your children or while watching them.
June, 2019: Canada’s Federal Health Minister announces funding for major cannabis public education projects. This includes #PotCanPoisonKids, a comprehensive, evidence-based national education, awareness and prevention campaign focused on the dangers of unintentional child poisoning from cannabis products.
More tips for your home, garden and garage
- Keep pesticides in their original containers and store them in a cool dry place out of your child's reach.
- Know all plants in and around your home and garden.
- Label each plant in your home with the specific name (e.g. Devil's ivy vs. just ivy)
- Keep all houseplants, seeds, and bulbs out of reach of children.
- Teach children never to put leaves, flowers, seeds, nuts, or berries in their mouths without first checking with an adult.
- Never eat wild mushrooms or unfamiliar wild berries. Many poisonous mushrooms look like mushrooms that are safe to eat.
- Store household cleaners, such as oven cleaner and bleach; car supplies, such as windshield washer fluid; cosmetics, such as nail polish remover; and pesticides in locked cupboards or drawers – a child safety latch is an acceptable alternative.
- Antifreeze and windshield washer fluids are very poisonous. Even small amounts of these can cause serious injury.
Keep the number of your local poison control centre number near the phone[please ensure this is a link to In the event that your child is potentially poisoned, contact your regional poison information centre. If your province or territory does not have a poison control centre, dial 911.