Poison Alert: Updated recommendations for acetaminophen overdoses coming April 2. See corrections.
Current Top 10
The Specialists in Poison Information document every call received by the Ontario Poison Centre. This data:
- Provides valuable information that can guide future treatment recommendations.
- Allows the Ontario Poison Centre to identify emerging trends around substances causing harm.
- Prevents unnecessary poisonous exposures and potential deaths.
The Ontario Poison Centre regularly determines "Top 10" lists, identifying the top ten most common types of exposures managed by the Specialists in Poison Information. Over time, these lists have changed, reflecting regulatory changes and other trends happening in Ontario. For instance, pain-relievers containing aspirin used to be one of the most common exposures until child-resistant packaging was introduced in the 1970s. Now, because of safer packaging and the availability of aspirin-free alternative pain relievers on the market, aspirin exposures rarely occur.
Top 10 - All Ages
1. Pain Relievers - Medicines that are given to relieve pain are the most common exposure that the Ontario Poison Centre deals with. These pain relievers are most commonly made of acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
2. Sleeping Medicines - Many people take a pill to help them fall asleep. These medicines are commonly found in people's homes and are commonly involved in overdose situations.
3. Household Cleaners - Bleach, all-purpose cleaners, detergents and disinfectants are easily accessed and often not stored safely.
4. Antidepressant Medicines - These medicines are commonly prescribed for a variety of reasons.
5. Personal Care Products - This includes products like mouthwash, toothpaste, sunscreen, perfumes, nail polish and nail polish removers.
6. Alcohols - These may include products such as regular drinking alcohol, rubbing alcohol, windshield washer fluid and antifreeze.
7. Heart and Blood Pressure Medicines - Medicines that are taken for certain heart conditions and to lower your blood pressure can be very dangerous if a young child gets into them by mistake.
8. Foreign Bodies - These are actually non-poisonous substances that are just not meant to be swallowed. They may not be poisonous, but could still cause harm.
9. Antihistamine Medicines - These medicines are commonly found in pills that you would take for allergies.
10. Vitamins - Many people believe that vitamins are natural remedies and therefore cannot be toxic, but some vitamins can actually be very harmful if taken in significant quantity.
Top 10 - Children Under Five
1. Pain Relievers - These medicines include products that contain ibuprofen or acetaminophen. They are commonly found in people's homes and should be locked up with the rest of your family's medication.
2. Cleaning Substances - Bleach, all-purpose cleaners, detergents and disinfectants are easily accessible and often not stored safely.
3. Cosmetics and Personal Care Products - Young children often try to taste toothpaste, creams, perfumes and other personal care products. See our tips for poison prevention to learn about storing these products safely!
4. Vitamins - Make sure to teach young children that vitamins are medicine. Keep them locked up with the rest of your family's medicine.
5. Foreign Bodies - Although these are not actually poisonous substances, they can still be hazardous. Examples of foreign bodies include plastic toys, soil and coins.
6. Skin Creams - There are many creams and ointments that are appealing to young children. These may include sore muscle rubs, steroid creams, wart removers and calamine lotions.
7. Plants - Young children will often be tempted to bite into a leaf of a plant. Some are harmful and others are not. Know the names of all plants growing in and around your home. Visit the Plants section of our website to learn more.
8. Cough and Cold Medicines - These medicines may be taken for cold, flu or allergy symptoms. Although fewer people are using these medicines, the Ontario Poison Centre continues to talk to people whose children have taken or been given more than what is required.
9. Pesticides - These substances are used to get rid of pests. Exposure to more dangerous pesticides is less frequent because of stronger regulation of these substances.
10. Antihistamines - These medicines are often taken to control allergy symptoms. Make sure they are stored safely!
Top 10 - Older Adults (age 60+)
1. Heart and Blood Pressure Medicines - Many seniors take medicine to manage heart conditions or to lower their blood pressure. When ingested in greater quantities than prescribed, these medicines can be very dangerous.
2. Pain Relievers - Medicines that are given to relieve pain are the most common exposure that the Ontario Poison Centre deals with. These pain relievers are most commonly made of acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
3. Sleeping Medicines - Many seniors take a pill to help them fall asleep. These medicines are commonly found in people's homes and are commonly involved in overdose situations.
4. Household Cleaners - Bleach, all-purpose cleaners, detergents and disinfectants are easily accessed and often not stored safely. Seniors with dementia are particularly at risk for unintentional poisoning with these substances as many products can be easily confused with beverages.
5. Cosmetics and Personal Care Products - This category includes products like denture cleaners, mouthwash, hand sanitizers and more.
6. Hormones - Many seniors take medicine to help regulate their hormones. Mistakes in a medication regime can result in unintentional poisoning with these substances.
7. Stomach Remedies - This includes products like laxatives, anti-diarrheal medicines, and antacids.
8. Miscellaneous drugs - Seniors take many medicines including both over-the-counter and prescription meds. Mistakes such as double dosing can happen when taking medicine.
9. Blood Thinners (Anticoagulants) - Be wary when taking blood thinning medicine. Incorrect dosing may lead to excessive bleeding.
10. Anti-seizure medicines - Medicines to control seizure activity can be very dangerous when taken incorrectly.