June 27th, 2019

Viva Vitality: Medication poisoning in children is a tough pill to swallow

By Medicine Hat News on March 15, 2019.

Do we really need to focus preventative efforts on medication poisoning for our children in Alberta? Unfortunately, yes. There is a high incidence of childhood poisoning due to improperly stored medications.

The Injury Prevention Centre and various healthcare providers across the province are launching an awareness week from March 17-23 for poison prevention in regards to medication poisoning in children. During this time the Injury Prevention Centre, the Poison and Drug Information Centre, Alberta Health Services and community partners will be sharing various tips and messages to parents and caregivers to raise awareness around this issue and protect children from medication poisoning.

This awareness week is an important opportunity to highlight the importance of poison prevention in children and educate populations around unintentional poisoning.

Are you wondering just how much of a problem this is? Here are a few statistics to inform you about:

* In 2018, 1,464 children under the age of 10 years old were admitted in emergency departments and urgent care centres for unintentional poisoning.

* 7 out of 10 poisonings involving children under the age of 10 years old treated in the emergency department were caused by medication.

* The Poison and Drug Information Service (PADIS) received more than 12,100 calls in 2018 concerning unintentional poisoning incidents involving young children.

* Drugs commonly involved in child poisonings include Acetaminophen (children’s and regular) used in pain relievers, Ibuprofen used in anti-inflammatory medications, antibiotics, Diphenenylhydramine used in allergy medications.

Now that you have a few of the facts, here are a few things to spark safety guidelines during the prevention week and throughout the rest of the year:

* Keep all prescriptions and over-the-counter medications locked up tight, out of sight, and in their original containers. Remember, child restraint caps on medications are not childproof.

* When taking your medications, do it away from children. Children often copy the actions of their parents or caregivers.

* Guests, family, or friends may bring their own medication in your home. Put purses, coats, and backpacks out of children’s reach.

* Most importantly, put the Poison and Drug Information Services (PADIS) emergency number in your phones. If you encounter a poisoning emergency please call PADIS at 1-800-332-1414.

Poisoning is a much larger public health issue than generally recognized – let’s all work together to increase our awareness and decrease the risk to unintentional poisoning in children, it should not have to be a tough pill to swallow.

Reference: Injury Prevention Centre (2019). Preventing Medication Poisoning in Children. Retrieved from injurypreventioncentre.ca/campaigns/poison-prevention

Chloe McNamee is a health promotion facilitator with Alberta Health Services and can be reached via email at chloe.mcnamee@ahs.ca.

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