Found a needle?

What to do when you find a needle?

When viruses in needles are exposed to the air, the viruses usually die quickly. There is no way to know how long a needle has been lying where you found it, so even though you are very unlikely to be infected by poking yourself, it is best to be safe.

In most cases, you can safely dispose of a needle yourself:

  1. Find a sturdy container with a lid, like a bleach bottle or a plastic pop bottle. Do not use glass jars because they can break, or thin plastic containers that a needle could pierce. Or, if you need a plastic container, you can get one by calling Street Connections. Set the container on a stable surface.
  2. Put on thick gloves that are not easily pierced.
  3. Use a pair of tongs, pliers, or tweezers to pick up the needle. Do not try to put the cap back on.
  4. Pick up the needle and point the tip away from you. Put it in the container and tape the lid tightly closed (duct tape if possible) for extra security.
  5. Put the container in the regular garbage or a city dumpster, not into recycling.
  6. If you have a small number of needles, you can bring them to needle drop boxes located around Winnipeg. If you have a larger number, you can bring your container to certain community agencies. Look for locations offering 'Needle drop-off' on our interactive map for these locations.

When should I call for help?

  • If you are not able to safely pick up a needle.
  • If you see many needles in a pile, for example, in a stairwell or behind a dumpster.
  • If you see broken needles scattered on the ground.

If you need help picking up a needle:

  • On public property, call 311.
  • On private property, call Street Connections at 204-981-0742.

What if a needle pokes me?

The risk of serious infection from a discarded needle is very low, but it is important to take care of this kind of injury.

Step 1 - Allow the puncture site to bleed. This helps flush any germs away.

Step 2 - Wash the area well with soap and water.

Step 3 - Go to any emergency room as soon as possible. You will be assessed for health risks from this needle poke. Here is what might happen:

  • You may be given a vaccine against hepatitis B and/or tetanus.
  • Blood testing might be offered to make sure you did not have hepatitis B or C, or HIV before being poked.
  • You may need follow-up blood tests to make sure that you did not get infected.
  • In very few cases, you might be given medication to help prevent becoming infected by HIV. This is rarely necessary.
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