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B.C. ICU doctor says parents need to better protect kids from poisonings

Nearly 10,000 children five and under were poisoned in B.C. in 2023
Swallowing pain medication is the number one cause of poisoning, according to Island Health. (Metro Creative)

Anybody can get poisoned at home, but most of the time it happens to hungry kids when parents’ backs are turned.

Dr. Daniel Ovakim, the intensive care unit physician at Victoria General and Royal Jubilee Hospitals, is urging increased awareness about household poisonings during the Safe Kids Week from June 3 to 9.

“There are many potential poisons in our homes, such as medications, household cleaners, plants, and cannabis products,” said Ovakim, who also works as a toxicologist for the BC Drug and Poison Information Centre (DPIC). “The frustrating part is that most poisonings are preventable.”

Swallowing pain medication is the number one cause of poisoning, with 1,112 reported incidents in 2023. That is despite legal requirements to make packaging child-proof.

“Though bottles are labelled child-proof, they are child-proof for most children, not all children. It is best to use small containers with small doses, so if a child breaks into a container, there is a less toxic amount,” he said in a news release.

Cannabis edibles were considered to have the most toxic effect compared to other forms of cannabis consumption.

“There’s the notion that cannabis is safe, but in the doses that are available in edibles and potency we are seeing now, it is not safe for younger kids,” Ovakim said. “We’ve seen children in the ICU on a ventilator after ingesting cannabis products.”

Batteries are the culprit for more serious poisoning and can cause life-threatening internal chemical burns in two hours. There were 55 cases in 2023 with many involving small, disc-shaped button batteries commonly used to power toys, watches, hearing aids and car key fobs.

“As a parent myself, I know how easy it is to get distracted and we can’t always be around, and kids can be very clever,” Ovakim said. “Being a toxicologist, I am more familiar with the risks, and I have educated my kids on what to watch for and what to avoid. Teaching our children can go a long way in avoiding poisonings.”

The BC Poison Control Centre is available 24 hours a day at 604-682-5050 or 1-800-567-8911.

READ ALSO: B.C. poison control sees spike in adults, children accidentally ingesting hand sanitizer

About the Author: Thomas Eley

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