Emergency visits for childhood poisoning: a 2-year prospective multicenter survey in Spain

Pediatr Emerg Care. 2006 May;22(5):334-8. doi: 10.1097/01.pec.0000215651.50008.1b.


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.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Distribution
  • Carbon Monoxide Poisoning / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Ethanol / poisoning
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospitals, Pediatric / statistics & numerical data*
  • Household Products / poisoning
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs / poisoning
  • Infant
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Poisoning / diagnosis
  • Poisoning / epidemiology*
  • Poisoning / therapy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sex Distribution
  • Spain / epidemiology
  • Survival Analysis


  • Illicit Drugs
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Ethanol