Evaluation of changes in poisoning in young children: 2000 to 2010

Pediatr Emerg Care. 2013 May;29(5):635-40. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0b013e31828e9d00.


Objective: The nature of pediatric poisonings is dynamic, with changes occurring over time. We evaluated poisoning in children younger than 6 years for trends during an 11-year period regarding the substances involved in the poisoning, medical outcomes, and health care use.

Methods: This was retrospective study of poisoning in children younger than 6 years reported to 12 poison centers in 5 U.S. states for the years 2000 through 2010. Data abstracted included substance category involved in the exposure, age of patient, year of occurrence, location of patient management, and medical outcome.

Results: There were 2,577,036 poison exposures in children younger than 6 years, with a 12.4% increase from 210,270 poison exposures in 2000 to 236,425 poison exposures in 2010. There was a 33% increase (P < 0.05) in pharmaceutical related exposures in children younger than 6 years and a 2.8% decline in the number of nonpharmaceutical related exposures. Among those substance categories representing more than 1% of exposures, the only pharmaceutical showing decline was cough/cold preparations. There was a 53% increase in serious medical outcomes, including 119 deaths and a significant increase in health care facility use, primarily owing to pharmaceutical exposures.

Conclusions: Poisoning in young children increasingly involves pharmaceuticals and is associated with an increased number of serious outcomes and children treated in a health care facility. We believe that these changes are related to increased availability of medications in the home and poison prevention education efforts should include a focus on the availability of these products to small children.

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Disease Management
  • Emergency Medical Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Facilities / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Resources / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Household Products / poisoning
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Morbidity / trends
  • Nonprescription Drugs / poisoning
  • Pesticides / poisoning
  • Plant Poisoning / epidemiology
  • Poison Control Centers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Poisoning / epidemiology*
  • Poisoning / therapy
  • Prescription Drugs / poisoning
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Nonprescription Drugs
  • Pesticides
  • Prescription Drugs