Introduction

Suspected poisoning in children results in about 40,000 attendences at Emergency departments each year in England and Wales. Around half of these children are admitted to hospital for treatment or observation. Precise data on hospital admissions for poisonings are altered by the fact that many Emergency departments and paediatric wards have special areas where children who have taken a substance of low toxicity can be observed for a few hours without being formally admitted.

Deaths from ingested poisons are uncommon, and are due to drugs (especially tricyclic antidepressants), household products and, rarely, plants. As can be seen from Table 14.1, more children die each year from inhalation of carbon monoxide and other gases in household fires, than die from accidental poisoning by drugs although fire deaths are decreasing while poisoning deaths are not.

Table 14.1. Deaths in children (ages 1-14) from poisons in England and Wales

Cause of death

1988

1998

From poisoning by drugs,

16

18

medicaments and biological substances

From toxic effects of carbon monoxide

36

15

From toxic effect of other gases, fumes or vapours

56

24

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