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.