This study aims to describe pediatric poisonings presenting to a rural Ugandan emergency department (ED), identifying demographic factors and causative agents.
This retrospective study was conducted in the ED of a rural hospital in the Rukungiri District of Uganda. A prospectively collected quality assurance database of ED visits was queried for poisonings in patients under the age of 5 who were admitted to the hospital. Cases were included if the chief complaint or final diagnosis included anything referable to poisoning, ingestion, or intoxication, or if a toxicologic antidote was administered. The database was coded by a blinded investigator, and descriptive statistics were performed.
From November 9, 2009, to July 11, 2014, 3428 patients under the age of 5 were admitted to the hospital. A total of 123 cases (3.6%) met the inclusion criteria. Seventy-two patients were male (58.5%). The average age was 2.3 (SD, 0.97) years with 45 children (36.6%) under the age of 2 years. There were 19 cases (15.4%) lost to 3-day follow-up. The top 3 documented exposures responsible for pediatric poisonings were cow tick or organophosphates (36 cases, 29.2%), general poison or drug overdose (26 cases, 21.1%), and paraffin or hydrocarbon (24 cases, 19.5%).
Of the admitted patients, 1 died in the ED and 2 died at 72-hour follow-up, for an overall 72-hour mortality of 2.4%. Patients who died were exposed to iron, cow tick, and rat poison.
Pediatric poisoning affects patients in rural sub-Saharan Africa. The mortality rate at one rural Ugandan hospital was greater than 2%.