Management of toxic exposure in children

Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2003 Feb;21(1):101-19. doi: 10.1016/s0733-8627(02)00083-4.


Millions of children ingest household products and medications yearly. The continuous proliferation of new products and pharmaceutic agents makes it difficult for physicians to maintain a current command of toxicologic information. Multiple sources, including poison control centers, can provide information; however, EPs must be familiar with several agents that are either significant for their frequency or for their disproportionate potential for morbidity and mortality in pediatric patients. With this select group of intoxicants, physicians must anticipate cardiovascular and pulmonary instability and rapid changes in central nervous system functioning. Appropriate supportive care requires monitoring of the following: vital signs, level of consciousness, airway control, ventilation and circulatory support, body temperature, urine output, and acid base balance. Once these concerns are addressed, prevention of further absorption, enhancing a product's elimination, and treatment with specific antidotes may enhance supportive care. Care is also likely to be enhanced if the EP recognizes the inherent differences (medically and socially) between adults and children of various ages. Definitive emergency care is completed only after the provision of a developmentally oriented preventive strategy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antidotes / therapeutic use
  • Charcoal / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Emergency Treatment / methods*
  • Gastric Lavage
  • Humans
  • Physical Examination / methods
  • Poisoning / diagnosis*
  • Poisoning / therapy*
  • United States


  • Antidotes
  • Charcoal