Risk factors for unintentional poisoning in children aged 1-3 years in NSW Australia: a case-control study

BMC Pediatr. 2013 May 24;13:88. doi: 10.1186/1471-2431-13-88.


Background: Unintentional poisoning in young children is an important public health issue. Age pattern studies have demonstrated that children aged 1-3 years have the highest levels of poisoning risk among children aged 0-4 years, yet little research has been conducted regarding risk factors specific to this three-year age group and the methodologies employed varied greatly. The purpose of the current study is to investigate a broad range of potential risk factors for unintentional poisoning in children aged 1-3 years using appropriate methodologies.

Methods: Four groups of children, one case group (children who had experienced a poisoning event) and three control groups (children who had been 'injured', 'sick' or who were 'healthy'), and their mothers (mother-child dyads) were enrolled into a case-control study. All mother-child dyads participated in a 1.5-hour child developmental screening and observation, with mothers responding to a series of questionnaires at home. Data were analysed as three case-control pairs with multivariate analyses used to control for age and sex differences between child cases and controls.

Results: Five risk factors were included in the final multivariate models for one or more case-control pairs. All three models found that children whose mothers used more positive control in their interactions during a structured task had higher odds of poisoning. Two models showed that maternal psychiatric distress increased poisoning risk (poisoning-injury and poisoning-healthy). Individual models identified the following variables as risk factors: less proximal maternal supervision during risk taking activities (poisoning-injury), medicinal substances stored in more accessible locations in bathrooms (poisoning-sick) and lower total parenting stress (poisoning-healthy).

Conclusions: The findings of this study indicate that the nature of the caregiver-child relationship and caregiver attributes play an important role in influencing poisoning risk. Further research is warranted to explore the link between caregiver-child relationships and unintentional poisoning risk. Caregiver education should focus on the benefits of close interaction with their child as a prevention measure.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Home* / prevention & control
  • Accidents, Home* / psychology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Mothers / psychology
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • New South Wales
  • Poisoning / etiology*
  • Poisoning / prevention & control
  • Poisoning / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Safety
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Temperament
  • Wounds and Injuries / etiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / prevention & control
  • Wounds and Injuries / psychology