Healthy Living in the North

Poison prevention: can you spot the difference?

Take a look at this photo.

side by side comparison of nicotine and chewing gum.

Can you spot the difference between these two types of gum? Hint: one is safe for school-aged children, one is not.

Stumped? The gum on the left is chewing gum and the gum on the right is nicotine gum. Easy to tell the difference right? For an adult, yes. Now put yourself in the shoes of a toddler. Easy to confuse the two, isn’t it?

I’m sharing this photo (and others below) to bring awareness to Poison Prevention Week, which falls on March 18 – 24 this year. Poisoning can happen at any age; however, children are at particular risk of injury. Looking at the photo above, it’s easy to see why! Children between the ages of 1 and 3 years are at the highest risk because of the way they explore the world around them. What do toddlers do best? Put things in their mouth! They like to taste test everything!

That said, the risk of poisoning is not limited to toddlers. I have a 6 year old, who, despite my best efforts, still absentmindedly licks many items not fit to eat! Ick!

The good thing is that this reminds me that even as my children age, I need to remain watchful and always keep medications out of sight and out of reach. Generally, as parents, we do a really good job of creating safe spaces and home environments, but we can’t control everything. Visiting guests with purses or toiletry bags, or new unfamiliar spaces are a part of life and sometimes kids just can’t recognize the risk. The good news is that poisoning is preventable.

Spot the difference: poison prevention edition

Take a look at the following products. Can you spot the difference? Take a guess and share with a friend. Poison Prevention Week is a great opportunity to remind ourselves how mistakes can happen.

Nicotine chewing gum comparison.

Skittles coated medication comparison.

Chocolate laxative medication comparison.

Juice and medication comparison.

Toothpaste medicinal creme comparison.

Medications remain the leading cause of poisoning in children

Follow the recommended practice of storing medications in their original packages; in child resistant containers; and out of sight and reach of children. Keeping these practices in mind, we can significantly reduce the risk of accidental poisoning, however there may come a time when you find yourself calling the BC Poison Control Centre. The phone lines are answered 24 hours a day and offer services in 150 different languages.

When to call the BC Poison Control Centre

If a person is unconscious, having convulsions or having trouble breathing, call 9-1-1. This is an emergency.

If the person you are concerned about is awake, call BC Poison Control right away 1-800-567-8911.

Have the following information ready:

  • The details of the substance (medication, plants, cleaners, or other) that you are concerned about
  • The estimated amount taken, inhaled, or spilled on the skin
  • When the incident happened
  • The age and approximate weight of the person affected
  • How is the person doing now
  • The telephone number you are calling from

What you can expect from the BC Poison control centre:

  • A poison specialist who is a specially trained nurse or pharmacist will answer your call.
  • You will be advised if you need to go to the emergency department of if you can watch the person at home.
  • You may be given first aid instructions.
  • If the person can be watched at home, the poison specialist will advise you what to watch for, and in some cases, may call you back later to see how the person is doing.

Children act fast…. so do poisons. If you think someone may be at risk for poisoning, don’t hesitate to call.

Amy Da Costa

About Amy Da Costa

Amy Da Costa has worked in Public Health for 12 years. She recently joined the Population Health team as a part-time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention. Amy lives in Kitimat with her husband and two children. They like to camp, swim, and cook as a family.

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