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J Pediatr. 2012 Feb;160(2):265-270.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2011.07.042. Epub 2011 Sep 13.

The growing impact of pediatric pharmaceutical poisoning.

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  • 1Division of Emergency Medicine, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Department of Pediatrics, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH, USA.

Erratum in

  • J Pediatr. 2012 May;160(5):888-9.



To understand which medications, under which circumstances, are responsible for the noted increase in pediatric medication poisonings, resource use, and morbidity.


Patient records from 2001-2008 were obtained from the National Poison Data System of the American Association of Poison Control Centers for children aged ≤5 years evaluated in a health care facility following exposure to a potentially toxic dose of a pharmaceutical agent. Pharmaceutical agents were classified as over-the-counter or prescription and by functional category. Exposures were classified as child self-ingested the medication or as therapeutic error. For the 8-year period, emergency visits, admissions, significant injuries, and trends in these events were calculated for each substance category.


We evaluated 453 559 children for ingestion of a single pharmaceutical product. Child self-exposure was responsible for 95% of visits. Child self-exposure to prescription products dominated the health care impact with 248 023 of the visits (55%), 41 847 admissions (76%), and 18 191 significant injuries (71%). The greatest resource use and morbidity followed self-ingestion of prescription products, particularly opioids, sedative-hypnotics, and cardiovascular agents.


Prevention efforts have proved to be inadequate in the face of rising availability of prescription medications, particularly more dangerous medications.

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