Background: Poisonings are a significant cause of pediatric morbidity and mortality. The Israel Poison Information Center provides clinical consultations on poisonings and drug information 24 hours a day.
Objective: To evaluate epidemiologic characteristics of pediatric poison exposures in Israel.
Methods: We reviewed computerized queries and performed a descriptive analysis of the Poison Center database pertaining to patients less than 18 years old during 2007.
Results: A total of 15,005 pediatric poison exposures were recorded, 80.3% of them occurring in children under 6 years old. Of the calls to the Poison Center, 78.6% were made by the public, 20.7% by physicians, and in 74.4% the call was within 2 hours of exposure. Most exposures occurred at home (89.3%) and were unintentional (89.5%). Among adolescents, most exposures were intentional (49.3%, 38.2% suicides), the time lapse until consultation was longer (37% > 2 hours), and more physicians (54.8%) consulted the Poison Center. Most cases were asymptomatic or mildly affected (92.3%), 54.4% in adolescents. The commonest substances involved in single poison exposure were detergents, antimicrobials, topical preparations, acetaminophen and scale removers; in adolescents the most common substances were acetaminophen, methylphenidate, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, atropine and ethanol. Moderate to severe toxicity was commonly associated with organophosphates, alkali, ethanol, Vipera palaestinae and neuroleptics. Most patients could be observed at home (66.6%), while more adolescents were referred to emergency departments (42.2% vs. 9.9%) or hospitalized (14.5% vs. 1.9%).
Conclusions: Pediatric poisonings are a significant health problem. The magnitude of the problem is greater in the young age group but more severe in adolescence, probably due to deliberate self-poisoning. Greater national efforts should be directed towards improved poison prevention, rational management of pediatric poisoning, and creating a national poisoning registry.