National Poison Prevention Week is March 17 to 23 in 2024, with a focus on empowering poison prevention in Canada for a safer tomorrow.

Poison Prevention Week is an annual campaign to raise public awareness of poisoning injuries in Canada, encouraging community involvement as part of the solution. 

In 2024, Parachute is joining organizations across Canada to promote a pan-Canadian theme for Poison Prevention Week – Poison Prevention: Empowering Canada for a safer tomorrow. Use the hashtag #EmpowerPoisonPrevention to promote the theme on social media.

Each year, more than 4,000 Canadians lose their lives due to poisoning and annual unintentional poisoning deaths have now surpassed transport-related deaths in Canada With many potential poisons – such as medications, household cleaners and cannabis products – in and around the home, it’s important to know how to safely store these items and what to do in the event of a poisoning. 

Recognize and identify potential poisons

There are many items in and around the home that can cause poisoning.

  • Medications are the leading cause of poisoning in Canada. Prescription and over-the-counter medications can cause poisoning if taken by mistake or used incorrectly. In 2021, medications that relieve pain, known as analgesics, were the No. 1 substance Canada’s poison centres received calls about.
  • Household cleaners can be brightly coloured and appealing to children. As well, when mixed, household cleaners can produce dangerous chemicals.
  • Ingesting cannabis is the most common cause of cannabis poisoning in children. Cannabis edibles can have a stronger effect on the body than other forms of cannabis. Cannabis edibles often resemble common snacks (e.g., brownies, gummy candies). A young child may be unable to tell the difference. Children can have significant effects from cannabis edibles such as drowsiness, coma, agitation and difficulty breathing.
  • Colourful, transparent laundry detergent pods may look like candies or toys to children. Laundry detergent pods can harm a child if ingested, or if the liquid gets into their eyes. Older adults with dementia can also be at risk of unintentionally consuming laundry detergent pods.
  • Fragrant and brightly coloured personal care products like perfume, mouthwash and hand sanitizer can be appealing to children. These products often contain a high percentage of alcohol which can be harmful to children if ingested. Store these products high and locked away from children’s reach.
  • Some indoor plants can be toxic if ingested. Leave the name tag on each plant in the home.
  • Do not assume that a plant is safe to eat because birds or wildlife eat it. Teach children to never put berries, seeds, flowers, nuts or leaves in their mouth without checking with an adult first.
  • Never eat wild mushrooms. Poisonous mushrooms can look just like mushrooms that are safe to eat. Check outdoor areas frequently for mushrooms before children go outdoors to play and remove all mushrooms growing outdoors near your home.

Take action to prevent poisoning

Know how to store potential poisons safely and prevent poisoning:

  • Store poisonous products high, locked and out of sight. Put medications, cannabis and other products away after every use.
  • Keep products in their original, child-resistant packaging. Child-resistant packaging has been shown to reduce poisoning injuries and deaths.
  • Keep medications, cleaners and other products in their original, labelled packaging to ensure you have instructions for use, avoid mix-ups and have information about the contents should you need to call a poison centre.

Follow directions and use products as they’re meant to be used:

  • Always read the label and check the dosage each time you give or take medicine, including over-the-counter and prescription medications.
  • Avoid mixing different cleaning products together. Mixing can cause chemical reactions that produce dangerous gases. 
  • Avoid using cannabis products and e-cigarettes in front of children. Children often want to do the same things their parents and caregivers do.

Protect your household from carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Without a carbon monoxide alarm, you can’t detect this poisonous gas. Install carbon monoxide alarms on every floor of your home and outside sleeping areas.
  • Replace carbon monoxide alarm batteries at least once a year. 
  • Carbon monoxide alarms wear out! Sensors weaken and become obstructed over time. Replace the unit according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  
  • Never use propane products or portable generators inside of the home or garage. 

Know what to do in case of a poisoning

Having an action plan in place can help you and your family respond quickly in the event of a poisoning. Only 18 per cent of Canadians report knowing about local poison resources. 

Possible poisoning? Call your local poison centre. 

Canada has a toll-free 24/7 number for poison centres. If you suspect a poisoning, call 1-844-POISON-X (1-844-764-7669). 

If you are located in Nunavut, contact your local health centre

If you are located in Québec, call 1-800-463-5060. 

Keep the number of your poison centre nearby or in your phone

Program the number into your phone’s contact list or keep it in a visible location, such as on your fridge. In the event someone is potentially poisoned, contact the poison information centre.

If the person loses consciousness or has difficulty breathing, call 911.

Help create a safer Canada 

Everyone can help by reporting unsafe products and issues with medications.  

  • Report your experience with or concerns about a product to Health Canada to help identify risks to people’s health and safety.
  • Play a vital role in reducing medication incidents by reporting them. A medication incident, also known as a medication error, is a mistake with medication (e.g., receiving the wrong medication, dose, or route of administration).
  • Health professionals are encouraged to report adverse reactions and concerns about products. Reporting is a critical part of the process to improve health product safety for all people in Canada.

This program is made possible through a financial contribution from Health Canada; the views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Health Canada.