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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.