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Evaluation of Changes in Poisoning in Young Children: 2000 to 2010

Spiller, Henry Alfred MS, D.ABAT, FAACT*; Beuhler, Michael C. MD, FACMT†‡; Ryan, Mark L. PharmD§∥; Borys, Douglas J. PharmD, D.ABAT; Aleguas, Alfred PharmD, D.ABAT#; Bosse, George M. MD**††

doi: 10.1097/PEC.0b013e31828e9d00
Original Articles

Objective: The nature of pediatric poisonings is dynamic, with changes occurring over time. We evaluated poisoning in children younger than 6 years for trends during an 11-year period regarding the substances involved in the poisoning, medical outcomes, and health care use.

Methods: This was retrospective study of poisoning in children younger than 6 years reported to 12 poison centers in 5 US states for the years 2000 through 2010. Data abstracted included substance category involved in the exposure, age of patient, year of occurrence, location of patient management, and medical outcome.

Results: There were 2,577,036 poison exposures in children younger than 6 years, with a 12.4% increase from 210,270 poison exposures in 2000 to 236,425 poison exposures in 2010. There was a 33% increase (P < 0.05) in pharmaceutical related exposures in children younger than 6 years and a 2.8% decline in the number of nonpharmaceutical related exposures. Among those substance categories representing more than 1% of exposures, the only pharmaceutical showing decline was cough/cold preparations. There was a 53% increase in serious medical outcomes, including 119 deaths and a significant increase in health care facility use, primarily owing to pharmaceutical exposures.

Conclusions: Poisoning in young children increasingly involves pharmaceuticals and is associated with an increased number of serious outcomes and children treated in a health care facility. We believe that these changes are related to increased availability of medications in the home and poison prevention education efforts should include a focus on the availability of these products to small children.

From the *Central Ohio Poison Center, Columbus, OH; †Carolinas Poison Center, Charlotte; ‡School of Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC; §Louisiana Poison Center; ∥Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center–Shreveport, Shreveport, LA; ¶Central Texas Poison Center, Scott and White Healthcare, Temple, TX; #Northern Ohio Poison Center, Cleveland, OH; **Kentucky Regional Poison Control Center of Kosair Children’s Hospital; and ††Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Louisville School of Medicine, Louisville, KY.

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Henry Alfred Spiller, MS, D.ABAT, Central Ohio Poison Center, 700 Children’s Dr, Columbus, OH 43205 (e-mail:

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.