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Am J Prev Med. 2019 Feb;56(2):288-292. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2018.10.004. Epub 2018 Dec 17.

Ingestion of Over-the-Counter Liquid Medications: Emergency Department Visits by Children Aged Less Than 6 Years, 2012-2015.

Author information

1
Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia.
2
Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia; Eagle Medical Services, LLC, Atlanta, Georgia.
3
Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia. Electronic address: dbudnitz@cdc.gov.

Abstract

INTRODUCTION:

Unintentional medication ingestions by young children lead to nearly 60,000 emergency department visits annually; 15% involve oral liquid medications. Safety packaging improvements have been shown to limit liquid medication ingestions. Estimated rates of emergency department visits for pediatric ingestions by product were calculated to help target interventions.

METHODS:

Frequencies and rates of emergency department visits for unintentional pediatric ingestions were estimated using adverse event data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System-Cooperative Adverse Drug Event Surveillance project and retail sales/pharmacy dispensing data from Information Resources, Inc. and QuintilesIMS (collected 2012-2015; analyzed 2017). Rates of emergency department visits for ingestions of over-the-counter liquid medications were compared with those for prescription solid medications.

RESULTS:

From the results of 568 cases, an estimated 6,427 emergency department visits (95% CI=4,907, 7,948) were made annually after a child aged <6 years accessed one of the four most commonly implicated over-the-counter liquid medications without caregiver oversight. Nearly two thirds (63.8%) of these visits were made by children aged ≤2 years and 9.0% resulted in hospitalization. Acetaminophen was the most commonly implicated over-the-counter liquid medication (2,515 estimated emergency department visits annually). Rates of emergency department visits for liquid diphenhydramine and acetaminophen ingestions (8.1 and 7.4 emergency department visits per 100,000 bottles sold) were higher than rates for other common over-the-counter liquids and comparable to high-rate prescription solid medications (clonidine and buprenorphine/naloxone: 11.1 and 10.5 emergency department visits per 100,000 dispensed prescriptions, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS:

Product-specific rates of emergency department visits for unintentional ingestions can help prioritize preventive interventions, such as enhancing safety packaging with flow restrictors.

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