Background: Childhood poisoning continues to challenge the diagnostic and treatment skills of the pediatrician. Generally, childhood poisoning can be attributed to suboptimal parental supervision and accessibility of products with poisoning potential.
Objective: To evaluate the pattern of acute poisoning in children with relation to different age groupings.
Methods: Pediatric patients hospitalized for acute poisoning at the Soroka Medical Center over a 5 year period (1994-98) were evaluated retrospectively. Special attention was given to poisoning in relation to age groupings.
Results: During the years 1994-98 a total of 1,143 children were admitted for acute poisoning to the Soroka Medical Center. The majority of cases occurred in children aged 2-5 and 14-18 years. Males under 14 had a higher frequency of poisoning, the poisoning usually being unintentional, whereas poisoning in females occurred mostly in the 14-18 age group and was intentional. Drugs were the most common agent of poisoning in infants (0-1 year), in older children (10-13 years), and in adolescents (14-18 years), while in children aged 2-5 and 6-9 years either cleaning products or drugs were the usual agents of poisoning. Most poisonings in children aged 2-13 occurred between 4 and 8 p.m., and for most adolescent patients (14-18 years old) between 4 p.m. and midnight. Poisoning in children aged 2-13 were usually due to accessible home products, and to medicinal errors such as overdose and improper drug administration.
Conclusions: This study defines the characteristic pattern of pediatric poisoning with respect to different age groups and gender. Unintentional childhood poisoning predominated in males and occurred mostly because of accessible home products and suboptimal parental supervision during critical hours of the day. Most adolescent poisoning occurred in females and was intentional. Parental education and intensified child supervision are indicated measures of prevention for unintentional poisoning.