Medicines get Exposed to Air/Hand while being dispensed.

Inadvertent child poisonings rise dramatically

“Unfortunately, the number of poison visits to emergency departments are above those for children in car accidents.”

The number of young children being poisoned after inadvertently ingesting over-the-counter or prescription medications has risen dramatically in recent years, say U.S. researchers, and that trend is likely being mirrored in Canada.

A study by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center found that visits to U.S. emergency departments due to medication poisonings of children five and under rose 28 per cent between 2001 and 2008 — and 95 per cent were due to kids getting into the drugs on their own. 


Storage devices and child-resistant closures need to be improved to prevent accidental poisoning, an emergency medicine doctor says.

Lock up medications

Dr. David Juurlink, a medical toxicologist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, said there is no agency in Canada that keeps track of national medication poisonings among children, but there’s no reason to think the upward trend differs from the U.S. experience.

People often leave their pills out for the day and may put different drugs in one container for easy access. Juurlink advised against that practice, saying medications should be kept out of sight and locked up if possible.

Candy appearance of pills

While vigilance in the home is the first line of defence against accidental poisoning, Bond said the pharmaceutical industry could also help by changing packaging.

“We need to improve storage devices and child-resistant closures and perhaps require mechanical barriers, such as blister packs,” he said.

 “We may change the packaging to make it harder to get into the medicine, or so more of them are in blister packs. So the children, if they really want to fight for it, they’ll get one [pill] instead of three or five.”

Unintentional poisonings in Canada

Each year an estimated five Canadian children under 14 die and another 1,280 end up in the hospital with serious injuries due to poisoning.

Medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, are involved in two-thirds of unintentional poisonings in children under 14.


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