Sharp objects include used needles, razor blades or any item that could cut skin. Occasionally someone may come across a discarded needle while at the beach, park or during a community cleanup. While it doesn’t happen often, it is important that any discarded sharp object be safely collected and disposed of by an adult.
Most people who use needles for medication or drugs have safe disposal containers. But sometimes needles are not handled properly. This creates a safety risk for others.
What should children understand about sharps and needles?
Only adults should handle sharps and all sharps must be handled carefully. Parents should make sure children understand that:
- A child should never touch any needle. Tell them that used needles can be dangerous and might make them sick.
- Children should tell an adult where the needle is.
- If a child is poked by a needle, they should tell someone right away. The child will need to see a healthcare provider as soon as possible.
What should I do if a needle puncture does happen?
If you have been scratched, poked or cut by a discarded sharp object:
- Let the cut bleed freely
- Wash the area well with soap and water
- Apply an antiseptic like rubbing alcohol or peroxide
- Follow up with your healthcare provider as soon as possible
Sharps cannot be tested for blood-borne disease, so it is not necessary to collect the sharp. An adult can safely collect and dispose of the sharp.
You may be advised to have blood tests or get immunized, depending on the situation. Blood-borne diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B and C can be spread through blood and blood products.
What is the correct way to collect and dispose of a used needle?
Adults can safely pick up a sharp object by the following steps:
- Get a free sharps container if you find a needle. Call the health unit at 519.482.3416 or after hours at 519.482.7077 to ask where in your community you can get the container and where you can take it when you have put the sharp object in. Some Huron communities have public sharps containers in public buildings or beach change rooms.
- If that is not possible, bring a non-breakable, puncture proof container with a screw-top lid to where the sharp object is. Use a thick plastic jar, empty bleach bottle or water bottle.
- Use pliers, tongs or tweezers to pick up the object
- If it is a needle, hold the needle tip away from you
- Put the needle into the container needle end first
- Close the container tightly
- Wash your hands
- Take the container to the site recommended by the health unit
Reducing the risk for the community
If needles are shared, individuals are exposed to the blood of another person. If a person is infected with hepatitis B or C or HIV there is a risk of the disease being spread.
Like all health units in Ontario, the Huron County Health Unit offers a needle exchange program with community partners in the county. Providing injection drug users with sterile injection equipment helps reduce the transmission of HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and other blood-borne diseases. This reduces risk for both injection drug users and the larger community.
If you have a question please call us at 519.482.3416 or toll-free at 1.877.837.6143. Ask to speak to a public health nurse.