Needle stick injuries
A needle stick injury happens when the needle from a syringe used for injection accidentally pricks or cuts the skin.
Some children may be exposed to needles and at home (for example, if a family member injects insulin), others may find a needle left in a park or other public place. Teach your child never to touch a needle or a syringe, and to tell an adult if she finds one.
What infections can happen after a needle stick injury?
If the person who used the needle has hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or HIV (the AIDS virus), there is a chance that a child who pokes himself with the same needle could get the infection.
Hepatitis B is the most likely infection from a needle stick injury. If you do not know who used the needle before, your child is at risk of getting hepatitis B. If you know the person who used the needle doesn’t have hepatitis B or is tested right away and doesn’t have the disease, then you do not have to worry.
If your child has had all 3 doses of the hepatitis B vaccine, she is likely immune (protected) so will not get hepatitis B. In some provinces, the hepatitis B vaccine is given to babies. In others, it is given in Grade 4, 5, or 6. A blood test can be done to see if your child is protected.
If your child has not yet received the hepatitis B vaccine or a blood test shows that she is not protected even though she got vaccine, she can be given an immunoglobulin (IG) injection to prevent infection. IG has antibodies that will protect your child. Your child will also be given the hepatitis B vaccine to prevent infection in the future. The IG and the first dose of the vaccine is given as soon as possible. Your doctor will arrange for your child to receive 1 or 2 more doses of the vaccine, if needed, over the next few months.
Unfortunately, there is no vaccine or medicine to prevent hepatitis C. However, the risk that your child will get hepatitis C from a needle stick injury is very low. Your doctor will discuss testing with you.
HIV, the virus that causes AIDS
Unless your child is injected with blood from a syringe attached to the needle, there is almost no risk that he will get HIV from this injury. Your doctor will discuss HIV testing and medication options with you if you think there was blood in the syringe.
Will my child get an infection from a needle stick injury?
Often, there is no way to know if the person who used the needle had an infection. This is especially hard because it’s usually impossible to know how long it has been since the needle was thrown away. However, infections from needle stick injuries are extremely rare.
You should still call your doctor or take your child to the emergency room right away if he pokes himself with a needle.
Can the doctor do a test to see if my child was infected?
Blood tests done just after the injury won’t tell if your child has been infected. Your doctor can check for an infection by doing blood tests at about 6 weeks and again at 3 and 6 months after the injury. It's important to return to your doctor for these tests.
How can I prevent needle stick injuries?
- Teach your child never to touch needles and syringes.
- Make sure your child knows to tell a trusted adult – parent, teacher, police officer – if she finds a needle or syringe.
- Make sure needles are safely disposed of in a puncture-proof, closed container, such as a glass jar with a lid or a sharps box from your local pharmacy.
More information from the CPS:
Reviewed by the following CPS committees:
- Infectious Diseases and Immunization Committee
Last Updated: July 2018