Background: Toxic exposures in childhood are major health concern. In this hospital-based study, we sought to investigate socio-epidemiological factors contributing to acute pediatric poisoning in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.
Methods: This prospective cross-sectional study was conducted at the Kanchi Kamakoti CHILDS Trust Hospital (KKCTH), a tertiary care hospital for children in Chennai. Children and adolescents less than 18 years of age with diagnosis of acute poisoning during June 2014 to January 2015 were included in the study.
Results: During the study period, 10500 children were admitted to emergency department of the hospital; among which, 34 children presented with diagnosis of acute poisoning (0.32% of admissions). Eighteen patients (52.9%) were boys. The greatest proportion of patients (52.9%) aged 1 to 3 years. Regarding the intention of poisoning, 27 cases (79.4%) occurred following unintentional ingestion by children, 5 cases (14.7%) following inadvertent administration of medication(s) by a caregiver and 2 cases (5.9%) following inadvertent administration by a sibling. Children had relatively equal chance of being poisoned with medications (n = 18, 52.9%) and common household agents (n = 16, 47.1%). The most common medicines responsible for the poisonings were neuropsychiatric medicines (n = 6, 17.6%). None of the medications responsible for poisoning had childproof containers. On admission, only 14 children (41.2%) were symptomatic. Fifteen patients (44.1%) required admission to hospital wards and 4 patients (11.8%) required intensive care. The remaining patients only needed close observation for a few hours. All children made complete recovery and there was no mortality.
Conclusion:Children especially toddlers of either gender are vulnerable to unintentional exposures and need constant supervision by an adult. Educating caregivers about the fatalities associated with unprotected storage of medications, and dangers of placing hazardous chemicals in the reach of children will reduce a great number of poisoning in children.