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J Emerg Med. 2011 Sep;41(3):265-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2010.10.018. Epub 2011 Jan 7.

Pediatric poisonings in children younger than five years responded to by paramedics.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, University of California, San Diego Medical Center, San Diego, California 92103, USA.



Treatment of poisonings in children has been well studied, but few data are available on the various causes of the poisoning episodes in the pediatric population.


To describe the incidence and demographics of accidental poisonings incurred by children<5 years old in the County of San Diego, California who accessed paramedics through the 9-1-1 system.


Eight years of prehospital records for children<5 years of age were searched for poisoning cases. Detailed narrative information was abstracted to determine the circumstances surrounding the incident.


There were more than 40,000 paramedic transport calls for patients 5 years and younger over the study period; 996 (2.5%) of these calls had the chief complaint of poisoning. Of the calls classified as poisonings, 38% involved a 1-year-old and 35% involved a 2-year-old. Fifty-six percent of these poisonings involved either prescription or over-the-counter medications. An additional 16% were due to household cleaners. Eighty-eight percent of all calls were classified as mild in acuity, with 13% of poisoning calls for children under a year of age classified as moderate or acute; 50% of moderate or acute poisoning calls were to children 2 years of age. July and March were the months with the highest incidence of poisoning calls. The fewest calls were received on Saturdays and Sundays.


Children 1 year of age had the highest incidence of unintentional poisonings. Among all age groups, medications were the number one cause of unintentional poisonings. Other unintentional poisonings could be prevented if hazardous materials were out of reach of children; many of the cases in this study happened in front of the parent with the parent watching.

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