First in First Aid

 

WELCOME TO THE JULY EDITION OF FIRST IN FIRST AID!


On July 1st we observed a very special birthday – that of our own nation! Over 152 years, Canada has grown into a powerhouse for everything from technology to the culinary arts. Our diverse population brings a variety of perspectives and values to the table, bolstering our reputation as one of the most multicultural countries in the world. Despite our differences, we find common ground in our fierce pride for our country – after all, we are all Canadian. On Canada Day, we reflect upon our history, by spending time with our friends and family, often in the great outdoors that our country has to offer.

No matter how you choose to celebrate Canada Day – or the rest of summer – St. John Ambulance has got your back. This issue of First in First Aid, will have you ready for all kinds of summer adventures with a variety of seasonal health and safety tips. Grilling on the patio? Check out our food poisoning prevention techniques for a safe – and delicious – meal. Spending time at one of our stunning national parks? Learn about common poisonous plants before you head out. There’s something for everyone, so let’s get started!


In This Issue:
Buyer Beware: Purchasing First Aid Training For Your Company: If you own or manage a workplace in the province of Ontario, First Aid isn’t an option for you; it’s the law. Most businesses know this, yet few understand exactly what they need to do to satisfy their requirements. Many companies now offer First Aid training in Ontario; yet not all deliver the training in a way that satisfies the requirements of the law. When it comes to First Aid training for your business, it really is a “Buyer Beware” scenario. Simply paying a fee for your training doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get your money’s worth! Here are 6 questions to ask before selecting an organization to train you or your employees. READ MORE

Hydrated, Healthy and Happy: We might sip on water during our meals or if we are truly parched, but 78 percent of Canadians agree that they should be drinking more water than they do. It only takes a few seconds to chug a glass down, so why do we find it difficult to stay hydrated every day? Some argue that the taste of tap water is repulsive, and would prefer to opt for a sugary beverage. Who can blame them – sometimes a can of pop costs less than a bottle of water! Others complain that they simply forget until they are dehydrated enough to feel thirsty. Whatever your reason, we have a solution for you to stay healthy and hydrated this summer. READ MORE

Don’t Let the Bugs Bite: Don’t let the bed bugs – or any insects – bite! Bug bites and stings are notorious for spreading illness. Mosquitos can spread West Nile virus, ticks are associated with Lyme disease, and some spiders inject their victims with poisonous venom. For those allergic to certain insects, a bite or sting can elicit a life-threatening reaction in seconds. The risks for different sores depend on which bug is responsible, so identifying different bites is a useful skill for the summer. The task may seem daunting, but have no fear – our insect bite guide makes it easy for you to tell bugs to buzz off this season! READ MORE

Keep Your Head Above Water: Drowning is a leading cause of injury-related death for Canadian children, so it is especially important to keep an eye on them when they are in the water. However, poor judgement and overconfidence can put anyone at risk. In fact, the 2018 Lifesaving Society Drowning Report notes that the highest frequency of drowning occurs not in children, but in adults aged 20 to 24 and 55 to 59! Practicing water safety and learning emergency response techniques for water-related incidents is your best defense against drowning. This National Drowning Prevention Week (July 21-27) we encourage you to learn more about water safety. Follow these drowning prevention tips to make a splash this summer without the worry.

Pick Your Poison – Dangerous Plants in Ontario: Animals roam about as they please, but plants do not share the same mobile freedom. Instead, many use creative defense mechanisms to deter other animals from consuming them. Poison is a popular choice to keep predators at bay – eating or even touching them may induce life-threatening reactions. If these plants are in your yard or at a local park, you may not recognize them – in these cases, early recognition is key. The sooner you recognize the offending plant, the faster you can eliminate the threat. What plants should you be on the lookout for in your region? These five poisonous weeds in Ontario are the most common offenders.

 

BUYER BEWARE: 6 QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE PURCHASING FIRST AID TRAINING FOR YOUR COMPANY
If you own or manage a workplace in the province of Ontario, First Aid isn’t an option for you; it’s the law. Most businesses know this; yet few understand exactly what they need to do to satisfy their requirements. Many companies now offer First Aid training in Ontario; yet not all deliver the training in a way that satisfies the requirements of the law. Should something happen in your workplace and an auditor learns that your business received training that fell short of provincial standards, you could be hit with a fine of up to $100,000 in the case of an individual, and up to $1,500,000 in the case of a corporation.

 

When it comes to First Aid training for your business, it really is a “Buyer Beware” scenario. Simply paying a fee for your training doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get your money’s worth! Here are 6 questions to ask before selecting an organization to train you or your employees.
 
1. Is the organization an approved training provider on the WSIB website?

While appearing on the WSIB website is no guarantee that you will receive quality training from the organization, it does act as the first line of defence against low-quality trainers. Should your organization be audited, receiving training from a WSIB-approved organization will result in less hassle and easier validation.
 
2. How many hours of interaction does the company provide?

By law, First Aid training courses are required to have a minimum number of instructor-student contact hours in order to be considered compliant. Those minimums in Ontario are as follows:
 
• 6.5 hours for Emergency First Aid, excluding breaks and lunch
• 13 hours for Standard First Aid, excluding breaks and lunch
 
While it can seem tempting to try to circumvent these minimums in order to get employees back into the office, the fines for cutting corners can be significant; it just isn’t worth the risk. When considering a company, be sure to ask how many hours they plan to spend with their class; any answer less than the above number of hours should send up a red flag.
 
3. What resources and certificates are left with the students after completion of the course?

Upon completion of their training, students should receive a professionally printed first aid manual in either hard copy or digital format. They should also receive both a computer-generated wallet-size certificate, as well as a wall-sized certificate to be posted at company First Aid stations.
It may also be worth asking how the company provides access to past training records, in the event that a certificate is lost or damaged. If the training company maintains proper training records, they should be able to both provide reprints of certificates, as well as generate renewal notices to help your organization remain certified into the future.
 
4. What are the organization’s qualifications?
 
It is ideal to receive training from an organization that has the experience to deliver it effectively. All of the following can contribute to an organization’s qualification to deliver First Aid training:
 
• Instructor quality. What training do instructors receive prior to delivering the course? How are they monitored for continuous quality assurance?
• Organization history. How long has the organization been around?         
• Familiarity with regulations. How well does the organization know the law?
 
It’s important to evaluate your First Aid trainer on all of the above criteria when entrusting them with the education of your employees.
 
5. What are the teaching methods? What type of hands-on experience do students receive?
 
Some organizations will attempt to circumvent proper practice technique by having students do things like “practice breathing” into a CPR manikin instead of properly breathing. While this may sound innocuous, it can lead to both the formation of bad habits in a real emergency situation, as well as a lack of confidence in the student that may cause them to respond inadequately – or even not at all.
The practical component of training is the most important element. It’s this hands-on work that creates confident responders – not lectures, videos, stories or written work. If the organization spends less than 50% of course time on practical applications, or if they cannot provide enough equipment for each student to have their own kit to practice with, that should be a cause for pause.
 
6. What does the company charge for training, and where does that money go?
 
First Aid training in Ontario is offered by both for-profit companies and not-for-profits. Being a for-profit company obviously does not preclude an organization from providing effective training, but it does present the potential for misalignment between the company’s priorities and what is best for your team. Ensure your choice of first aid training provider puts the highest priority on graduating confident first aid responders.
Clearly, not all companies that offer First Aid training are created equal. It’s important to do your due diligence before choosing a company, to make sure that you’re getting what you’re paying for, and to make sure the training is conducted in a way that doesn’t open you up to penalties resulting from an audit. By asking the questions in this article, you empower yourself to make the most informed decision possible.
You can trust St. John Ambulance for quality first aid education in all of our courses. Browse our selection today, and book with us in person at your local branch, over the phone, or online!

 

HYDRATED, HEALTHY AND HAPPY

We might sip on water during our meals or if we are truly parched, but 78 percent of Canadians agree that they should be drinking more water than they do. It only takes a few seconds to chug a glass down, so why do we find it difficult to stay hydrated every day? Some argue that the taste of tap water is repulsive, and would rather opt for a sugary beverage. Others would rather spend a dollar on a can of soda than over two for a bottle of water. For most, they simply forget until they are dehydrated enough to feel thirsty. There are more possible excuses than drops of water in the sea!
We lose a lot of water in the summer due to increased perspiration. You can sweat out three to four pounds of liquid per hour in extreme heat, so you need to rehydrate with water more frequently. If you do not, you could suffer the unpleasant symptoms of dehydration, and even end up in hospital – no way to spend the dog days of summer. Clearly, there is no better time than now to kick the bad habits and get hydrated. Whatever your reasons are for avoiding a glass of water, we have a solution for you!
 
If you always forget to drink water…
 
• Make a routine. Drinking water at set times every day will help improve your daily intake of water. For example, try downing a glass every time you get back from a bathroom break.
• Use your phone. You know the saying – there’s an app for that. A variety of phone applications are available to help monitor your water consumption. Some can even determine your optimal water intake given a quick survey of age, height and other lifestyle factors.

If you do not want to shell out money for a bottle of water…
 
• Ask for tap water. It will be cheaper than ordering any other drink… possibly even free with the purchase of another item.
• Invest in a reusable water bottle. If you regularly buy bottled water, making this small investment will pay off in the long run. Plus, opting for a reusable bottle helps the environment!

If the taste of tap water throws you off…
 
• Jazz up your water. Infuse your water with slices of fruit for a kick of flavour.
• Drink your whole glass at once. You can down a glass in 10 seconds flat, so you will not have to endure the taste for long.


What’s In Your Drink?
Though water is the most hydrating drink out there, it is okay to indulge in a treat every once in a while. From trendy coconut water to super sweet soda, your options for a summertime refreshment are endless. However, some are healthier and more hydrating than others! It is important to be mindful of added sugar and caffeine before taking a swig of your drink – it might not be quenching your thirst as much as you think. Check out how your favourite beverages stack up. If yours is on the naughty list, do not worry – check out our pick for a more hydrating alternative.
Don’t drink… Choose this…
Flavoured milk. You loved it as a kid, and now the reason is clear – a cup of chocolate milk has an average of 25 grams of sugar in it!
Skim or 2% milk. Get all the protein, vitamin D and calcium from milk without the added sugar.
Fruit juice. The average glass of apple juice might pack in some vitamin C, but at the cost of 26 grams of sugar.
Fruit-infused water. It might not be as sweet as juice, but you will still be able to get a kick of flavour without all the added sugar.
Soda. Packed with caffeine and sodium, a can of pop will not do much to quench your thirst. Plus, an average of 10 teaspoons of sugar per can will trigger a sugar rush, and a crash to follow. Sparkling water. Now in a variety of flavours, you can get all the fizz of soda without the added sugar.
Smoothies. You need more fruit than you think to make a decent smoothie, and all the sugar in your ingredients can add up fast.  Watermelon. Fruitier and more hydrating than a smoothie - the popular summer fruit is made of 92% water!

Sweet iced tea. It sounds refreshing, but the caffeine and sugar will not do you any good. Iced herbal tea. Make sure it is caffeine-free and drink it without sugar for a cold treat on a hot summer day.
Coffee. One cup is okay, but if you go past that, you could start racking up your caffeine levels and dehydrating yourself. Decaf coffee. Tastes the same as regular, but without the caffeine to keep you hydrated and healthy.

Honourable Mentions: These popular summertime staples are perfect after a long day in the sun. Choose these over a bottle of pop for thirst-quenching hydration made tasty.
• Sports drinks. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Surprisingly, energy drinks can hydrate you more than water can… if you break a sweat before you swig. You lose water-retaining electrolytes when you sweat, and sports drinks help you replenish your electrolytes so you can get the most out of every drop of water you down. Just be sure that your beverage of choice does not contain too much added sugar!
• Coconut water. With about 94% water content and a boatload of vitamins and minerals, coconut water is a great alternative to water for when you need a tropical treat. Remember to check the label before you gulp to make sure you know how much sugar is in your cup.
What About My Beer?
Alcohol is a diuretic, or a substance that causes more frequent urination. In fact, for every standard alcoholic beverage you drink, you will output 100 mL more liquid than you consumed. Clearly, you only need a few beers to start getting dehydrated, especially if you have not been drinking water. Still want to enjoy a cold one on a hot summer day? Here are some tips to keep your hydration levels in check while indulging in alcohol.
• Alternate alcoholic beverages with water. This guarantees a net increase in water retention so you have a better shot at staying hydrated.
• Skip the shots. Remember, the alcohol is the diuretic, but anything you drink with it is not. As long as your mixer is not a sugary drink, you are better off drinking a cocktail. Don’t like mixed drinks? Order your liquor of choice on the rocks – the ice will gradually melt and provide you with some extra water.
• Pre-drink with water. Down a bottle before you head out to give your body a leg up against the night ahead.
• Choose water-rich snacks. Those celery sticks and baby carrots that come with the Buffalo wings your friends ordered? They boast high water content, so snack on them for an extra burst of hydration when a glass of water is hard to come by.
Dehydration: Recognition and Treatment
If you do not drink enough fluids – or if you overload on diuretic-filled treats – you will begin to experience the unpleasant side effects of dehydration. As soon as you notice the signs, drink water to prevent further dehydration and more severe symptoms. Look out for…
 
• Fatigue
• Lethargy
• Dark yellow urine
• Dry mouth
• Dry skin
• Dizziness
• Headache
• Thirst

If you experience any of the following more severe symptoms, you should seek immediate medical attention. Your health professional will treat you for advanced dehydration – something that water alone will not remedy as quickly.
 
• A fever higher than 39.4°C
• Seizures
• Difficulty breathing
• Chest or abdominal pain
• Fainting
• Coma
• Lack of urine for over 12 hours
• Dry mouth
• Sunken eyes and tearless crying in children

 

DON'T LET THE BUGS BITE!
Don’t let the bed bugs – or any insects – bite! Bug bites and stings are notorious for spreading illness. Mosquitos can spread West Nile virus, ticks are associated with Lyme disease, and some spiders inject their victims with poisonous venom. For those allergic to certain insects, a bite or sting can elicit a life-threatening reaction in seconds. The risks for different sores depend on which bug is responsible, so identifying different bites is a useful skill for the summer. The task may seem daunting, but have no fear – our insect bite guide makes it easy for you to tell bugs to buzz off this season!
Protecting Your Family in the Wilderness
Your summer escape will be way more enjoyable without insects threatening your health and safety. Use these simple tips endorsed by the Government of Canada to keep the bugs at bay while you appreciate the great outdoors.
• Cover your skin: A physical barrier is the best way to keep insects away. Wearing long sleeves in the summer may sound unpleasant when it is so hot outside. However, covering exposed skin with thin, light fabric actually keeps you cooler when the sun is beating down hard! Choose long sleeves, long pants and closed-toe shoes to protect your skin. For added protection, consider tucking your pants into your socks to keep floor-bound insects from nipping at your toes.
• Use insect repellent: Follow the directions on the bottle to ward off ticks, mosquitoes and blackflies. For children, choose towelettes or lotions over a spray for easy application without risking eye irritation. Make sure the product you choose is approved by Health Canada to minimize your risk of adverse reactions.
• Keep the bugs out: Maintain a bug-free space in your cottage, tent, or home. Do a head-to-toe check for bugs after coming inside, and wash all your clothes immediately to kill any that you missed. Make use of mosquito netting and bug screens where flying insects are a danger, and invest in a flyswatter to kill any bugs that breach your defenses. Have kids? Use mosquito netting over strollers and playpens for added protection.


Ouch! What Bit Me?
Every rose has its thorn, and every bug has its bite. Learn how to identify these five common bug bites that you can suffer from in Ontario, and assess the risks you face from each one.
Bug Bite/Sting Risks
Mosquito A small circular bump, sometimes with a red dot in the middle. Usually itchy and easily irritated. Your risk of contracting West Nile virus increases as we get into the dog days of summer. Few cases are serious, but those that are, can be deadly. Symptoms include: fever, headache, body aches, skin rash, and swollen lymph nodes.
Tick A dime-sized red spot, sometimes with a hardened bump under the skin or a black dot in the middle. You may find the tick – or part of it – still attached to the bite. Lyme disease can be transmitted through tick bites. Infected bites often develop a red ring around them, so they look like a bullseye. Signs include flu-like symptoms, neurological disorders, arthritis and even death due to complications with the heart.
Bee or Wasp A swollen red bump with a white spot accompanied by a sharp, instantaneous pain. The stinger may be left behind too. Bees and wasps do not carry infection, but they can trigger anaphylactic shock. Administer a dose of epinephrine with an EpiPen and seek medical attention if you have been diagnosed with a severe allergy to bee or wasp stings.
Black fly A swollen, itchy, red bump, usually on the head, face or back of the neck. You might experience flu-like symptoms, nausea and swollen lymph nodes too. Though painful, black flies do not carry infection, although an open wound caused by the bite may become infected.
Spider Two distinct puncture marks side by side. The surrounding area may be raised and red from irritation. Most spiders in Ontario are harmless, but if a Black Widow spider bites you, seek immediate medical attention. Black Widow bites cause radiating pain, abdominal cramping and sweating.
Bug Bite Treatment
The general procedure for most bug bites you will encounter is the same. However, if your symptoms do not alleviate within a few days or you experience more severe symptoms like weakness or fever, you should seek medical attention from a professional.
1. Remove any remnants of the offending insect from the wound. In most cases, you can remove them with tweezers. Ticks may be more difficult to remove with tweezers. Instead, suffocate any that remain attached by covering them with petroleum jelly and wiping them off.
2. Wash the affected area with soap, water and antiseptic. This reduces your chance of infection.
3. Apply topical anti-inflammatory creams, like cortisone or calamine lotion. Alternatively, apply ice to the area to reduce swelling.

 

KEEP YOUR HEAD ABOVE WATER
Drowning is a leading cause of injury-related death for Canadian children, so it is especially important to keep an eye on them when they are in the water. However, poor judgement and overconfidence puts everyone at risk. In fact, the 2018 Lifesaving Society Drowning Report notes that the highest frequency of drowning occurs not in children, but in adults aged 20 to 24 and 55 to 59! Clearly, we all need to learn a little more about water safety.
Practicing water safety and learning emergency response techniques for water-related incidents is your best defense against drowning. To educate Canadians about water safety, the Lifesaving Society designates the third week of July as National Drowning Prevention Week. We encourage you to jump in on the movement and help spread awareness about water safety amongst your family and friends. Don’t know where to start? St. John Ambulance is making water safety easy. Anyone can benefit from these water safety techniques and tips!
Keeping Your Kids Safe
Reasoning with children is not easy. They lack the decision-making skills and judgement required to make rational decisions. It is why, if you leave a child alone in a room full of candy, you will return to find a very hyper kid – and a hundred empty wrappers. They only see short-term consequences, if any at all.

 

If you would not leave your child alone with candy, why would you leave them alone near water? Candy may cause a stomach ache, but a child can drown in as little as a few centimetres of water. Keeping your kids in sight when they are near a body of water is critical to ensuring their safety. Employ these tips to keep your young ones safe whether you are spending time near the pool, the lake or even in the bathtub.
• Stay close to your kids. It only takes a few seconds for a child to drown after inhaling water. You should be near enough that you can intervene should a water emergency arise. If your kids are young or inexperienced, keep them within arms’ reach to ensure their safety. If they are older and more confident, you may watch them from afar.
• Pay attention. Often, drowning children cannot make a sound. Between gasps of air, they do not have the chance to scream or call for help. Always make sure your child is in sight so that you can watch for signs of drowning, like flailing or bobbing in the water.
• Enforce the rules. Discourage horseplay in or around the water, and let them know which areas are off limits.
• Use a lifejacket. Lifejackets can provide peace of mind for parents of young or inexperienced swimmers. They are safer than other options like pool floaties because they are designed to keep the wearer upright so that they can breathe in the water. When dressing your child in a lifejacket, make sure it fits snugly and has a large collar to support his or her neck. It should also have a belt that goes between your child’s legs to prevent him or her from sliding out of the device.
• Install barrier devices. Whether it is a gate to keep kids away from the docks or a fence around an in-ground pool, appropriate barrier devices are a must when you have kids in the area. Even above-ground pools pose a risk if the ladder is left unattended – curious children will climb anything!
• Keep emergency equipment close at hand. A buoyant ring at the end of a pole or rope is a common tool used to rescue drowning individuals, but you do not have to stop there. Invest in an automated external defibrillator (AED) and take training if you live near a body of water, and always keep emergency contact information close at hand.
Lifejacket Guide
If you are not wearing the correct kind of lifejacket for your body type and activity of choice, it may not offer you the protection you need in the water. Consider these variations to make an informed decision when choosing a lifejacket.
• Visibility: You need a brightly coloured jacket if you will be spending time by the lake or river. It will help emergency personnel find you if there is an accident on the water. Some even have reflective strips for improved visibility!
• Speed: If you will be travelling at high speed on the water, you should opt for a jacket with more fastening devices. Choose one with three or more chest belts for added security.
• Temperature: Will it be chilly when you are on the open water? The water will be even colder. Choose a lifejacket with thermal protection to protect you from shock if you fall overboard.
• Weight: Every lifejacket has a maximum weight that it can keep afloat in the water. Choose one that can carry your weight for peace of mind.

 

Are You Being S.A.F.E.?
Water safety is easy as long as you remain S.A.F.E. …
Stay Sober! Being inebriated around the water is never a good idea. It impairs your ability to swim, and leaves you susceptible to making dangerous decisions that could leave you or a loved one in cold water. Plus, you won’t be able to administer first aid to the best of your abilities if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Be responsible and leave the beers for later!
Be Aware! Staying mindful of the safety hazards around you is key to preventing a risky situation on the water’s edge. Remove the dangers you can, and monitor the more persistent ones to stop an accident before it happens. Also, be aware of where your kids are playing! Their decision-making skills are not the strongest, so you are responsible for maintaining their safety. Never leave them alone near the water.
Carry a First Aid Kit! First aid kits are packed with all the essential tools you may require in a crisis. You can make one yourself, or use one of our premade packages! We suggest our Fanny Kit, which can be carried around the waist for easy access when dealing with injuries.
Update your safety Education! Knowing how to handle emergencies quickly and effectively when they arise is your best defense against injury. In particular, learning cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and how to correctly call emergency services are vital skills for water safety. Our variety of Standard and Emergency First Aid Courses will train you in these skills, as well as countless others that could help you save a life. Check them out today!

 

PICK YOUR POISON: DANGEROUS PLANTS IN ONTARIO
Animals roam about as they please, but plants do not share the same mobile freedom. Instead, many use creative defense mechanisms to deter other animals from consuming them. Poison is a popular choice to keep predators at bay – eating or even touching them may induce life-threatening reactions. If these plants are in your yard or at a local park, you may not recognize them – in these cases, early recognition is key. The sooner you recognize the offending plant, the faster you can eliminate the threat. What plants should you be on the lookout for in your region? These five poisonous weeds in Ontario are the most common offenders.

 

Poison Ivy
Location: Poison Ivy grows in woody areas across Southern Ontario.
Appearance: The vine-like plant may carpet wooded areas or wind up trees, but it also grows as an upright plant standing a metre high at its tallest. Its leaflets consist of three round, toothed leaves which start out purplish in the spring, and become greener as the summer rolls around.
Danger: The plants contain a substance called urushiol that causes inflammation. Skin exposed to the oil will develop an itchy rash.
Treatment: Refrain from scratching the affected area, as it will only cause further swelling. Instead, apply oatmeal-based lotion and take cool showers to reduce inflammation and ease the itch. If the rash is still irritating you, consider using calamine lotion, cortisone, or another topical anti-inflammatory cream.
Removal: With protective gear to cover your skin, you can safely dig out the plant and its roots to dispose of it with your yard waste. Some herbicides are also available to kill poison ivy plants, but these may harm flora around them too.

 

Giant Hogweed
Location: The plant grows throughout Southern and Central Ontario.
Appearance: The Giant Hogweed lives up to its name, growing up to five metres in height. For the first few years of its life, it only produces leaves from its single hollow stem. Upon flowering, it grows clusters of small white flowers at the ends, arranged into disks.
Danger: Upon contact with the sap of a Giant Hogweed plant, nothing happens. However, if the sap is exposed to sunlight, it becomes toxic. The substance can then cause severe burns, blisters and even blindness if it gets into your eyes.
Treatment: Protect the area from the sunlight, and seek medical attention immediately. Your doctor will give you ointment to protect the burn and reduce sensitivity to light. You will need to be extra careful in the sunlight for years to come to avoid worsening the burn.
Removal: Giant Hogweed is an invasive species. If you find it on your property or in your neighbourhood, call the Invading Species Hotline at 1-800-563-7711 to learn more about removal and control.

 

Wild Parsnip
Location: Wild Parsnip occurs throughout Southern and Eastern Ontario.
Appearance: The plant looks like a miniature version of Giant Hogweed, except it only grows to a metre and a half in height. The plant’s flowers are also yellow, instead of white like those of Giant Hogweed. Its leaves are sharply toothed, and resemble the shape of a mitten.
Danger: Upon contact with the sap of a Wild Parsnip plant, nothing happens. However, if the sap is exposed to sunlight, it becomes toxic. The substance can then cause severe burns, blisters and even blindness if it gets into your eyes.
Treatment: Protect the area from the sunlight, and seek medical attention immediately. Your doctor will give you ointment to protect the burn and reduce sensitivity to light. You will need to be extra careful in the sunlight for years to come to avoid worsening the burn.
Removal: Wild Parsnip is an invasive species. If you find it on your property or in your neighbourhood, call the Invading Species Hotline at 1-800-563-7711. If there is substantial growth on your property, you should call a specialist to remove offending plants and to learn more about removal and control.

 

Pokeweed
Location: Pokeweed is found in meadows, edges of woods and waste areas throughout southwestern Ontario. You may also find it in old gardens – the leaves are edible if prepared correctly. However, it is not wise to cook and consume them yourself since the risks are so great.
Appearance: Appears similar to lavender, except Pokeweed stems come in shades of red and can grow up to three metres tall. The plant yields four to ten poisonous purple berries, arranged in a cluster at the end of the stem.
Danger: Ingestion of berries, seeds or roots induces disorienting side effects like fainting, seizures, blurred vision, sweating, weakness, vomiting, abdominal pains and unconsciousness.
Treatment: Call 9-1-1 immediately and monitor the victim until emergency medical services arrive. Do not induce vomiting unless instructed by a medical professional.
Removal: Pokeweed is a native plant to Ontario. If you find it in your backyard, you can safely dig out the plant and its roots to dispose of it with your yard waste.

 

Spotted Water Hemlock
Location: Spotted Water Hemlock can be found throughout Ontario, usually in wet areas like swamps and ditches.
Appearance: The plant ranges from one to two metres in height. It yields conical arrangements of small white flowers from its stem, which is green with purplish streaks – or spots – along its length. Its toothed leaves are fifteen inches long, and differentiate the weed from the similar-looking baby’s breath.
Danger: The deadliest of North America’s plants, it produces yellow sap containing cicutoxin. Upon ingestion, the poison attacks the nervous system and causes psychological symptoms like hallucinations, nervousness and frothing at the mouth. It only takes fifteen minutes for a poisoned individual to succumb to their symptoms, though some have lived for two to three hours following ingestion. Other symptoms include rapid pulse and breathing, seizures, twitching and coma.
Treatment: Call 9-1-1 immediately and monitor the victim until emergency medical services arrive. Do not induce vomiting unless instructed by a medical professional.
Removal: Pokeweed is a native plant to Ontario, so you should not remove it if you find it in the wilderness. If it is in your backyard, you can safely dig out the plant and its roots. Call your local landfill to determine how you can dispose of dug-up Spotted Water Hemlock.


Protecting Yourself
Avoiding poisonous plants on outdoor excursions is easy – all you need to do is exercise the following safety precautions.
• Educate yourself: Learn which dangerous plants grow in the area you will be exploring. Understand the risks and be prepared to address instances of poisoning accordingly.
• Cover up before exploring: Protect as much skin as possible by opting for long sleeves, pants and runners before venturing into the wilderness. If you will be walking through brush and long grass, wear long socks to avoid brushing against poisonous flora.
• Do not touch foreign plants: Simply brushing against certain poisonous plants can trigger immediate symptoms. Hence, avoid grabbing at plants on your adventure unless you are certain that they are safe.
• Refrain from eating wildberries: Like the aforementioned Pokeweed, many Ontario plants produce poisonous berries. If you are really hungry, chow down on your own snacks!
• Carry a first aid kit: If you are unlucky and still accidentally develop a rash after brushing against a plant, you will be able to quickly treat it with the contents of your kit. Our Fanny Kit is a popular choice, packed with cleansing wipes, bandages, and a variety of other first aid supplies.

 

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!
At St. John Ambulance, we believe that there is always room for improvement when it comes to first aid and safety education. It is why we do our best every day to provide accessible and affordable first aid education and products across the province. Still, we don’t stop there – almost all the proceeds we receive from the sale of first aid products and services go towards our community events and clinics, bringing safety to your doorstep. Of course, none of this would be possible without our amazing host of volunteers and donors who support us every day to make Ontario a safer place for everyone. We are forever grateful for their contributions, no matter how big or how small! Thank you for working so hard to make our neighbourhoods safer, one day at a time.
Want to get involved? Learn how you can volunteer with us or donate to our cause.