Objectives: To describe the characteristics of childhood poisoning leading to consultation to 17 pediatric emergency departments in Spain.
Methods: During a 2-year period (January 2001 to December 2002), accompanying people of 2157 children with acute intoxication who visited consecutively at the emergency room were prospectively surveyed.
Results: Childhood poisoning accounted for 0.28% of all emergency visits during the study period. The median (interquartile range, 25th-75th percentile) age was 24 months (22-60 months); 67% of children were younger than 4 years. Drug ingestion was involved in 54.7% of cases (paracetamol was the most frequent drug), domestic products in 28.9%, alcohol in 5.9%, carbon monoxide in 4.5%, and illicit drugs in 1.5%. A total of 61.3% of patients were admitted within 1 hour after exposure to the toxic substance, and 10.3% had been already treated before arrival; 29.1% of patients were referred for clinical manifestations which were mostly neurological symptoms. Laboratory tests and other investigations were performed in 40.7% of cases. Gastrointestinal decontamination was used in 51.7% of patients, with activated charcoal in 32.3%. Treatment varied significantly according to the individual hospitals. A total of 83.3% of patients were treated as outpatients, 15.2% were hospitalized, and 1.5% were admitted to the intensive care unit. One 11-month-old boy with carbon monoxide intoxication died. Six patients had permanent sequelae (esophageal stenosis in 5 and partial blindness in 1).
Conclusions: Young children who accidentally ingested drugs and, less frequently, domestic products accounted for most cases of intoxication who presented at the pediatric emergency department.