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BMC Pediatr. 2013 May 24;13:88. doi: 10.1186/1471-2431-13-88.

Risk factors for unintentional poisoning in children aged 1-3 years in NSW Australia: a case-control study.

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School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.



Unintentional poisoning in young children is an important public health issue. Age pattern studies have demonstrated that children aged 1-3 years have the highest levels of poisoning risk among children aged 0-4 years, yet little research has been conducted regarding risk factors specific to this three-year age group and the methodologies employed varied greatly. The purpose of the current study is to investigate a broad range of potential risk factors for unintentional poisoning in children aged 1-3 years using appropriate methodologies.


Four groups of children, one case group (children who had experienced a poisoning event) and three control groups (children who had been 'injured', 'sick' or who were 'healthy'), and their mothers (mother-child dyads) were enrolled into a case-control study. All mother-child dyads participated in a 1.5-hour child developmental screening and observation, with mothers responding to a series of questionnaires at home. Data were analysed as three case-control pairs with multivariate analyses used to control for age and sex differences between child cases and controls.


Five risk factors were included in the final multivariate models for one or more case-control pairs. All three models found that children whose mothers used more positive control in their interactions during a structured task had higher odds of poisoning. Two models showed that maternal psychiatric distress increased poisoning risk (poisoning-injury and poisoning-healthy). Individual models identified the following variables as risk factors: less proximal maternal supervision during risk taking activities (poisoning-injury), medicinal substances stored in more accessible locations in bathrooms (poisoning-sick) and lower total parenting stress (poisoning-healthy).


The findings of this study indicate that the nature of the caregiver-child relationship and caregiver attributes play an important role in influencing poisoning risk. Further research is warranted to explore the link between caregiver-child relationships and unintentional poisoning risk. Caregiver education should focus on the benefits of close interaction with their child as a prevention measure.

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