Pediatric Poisonings in a Rural Ugandan Emergency Department

Pediatr Emerg Care. 2020 Mar;36(3):e160-e162. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000001265.


Objective: This study aims to describe pediatric poisonings presenting to a rural Ugandan emergency department (ED), identifying demographic factors and causative agents.

Methods: This retrospective study was conducted in the ED of a rural hospital in the Rukungiri District of Uganda. A prospectively collected quality assurance database of ED visits was queried for poisonings in patients under the age of 5 who were admitted to the hospital. Cases were included if the chief complaint or final diagnosis included anything referable to poisoning, ingestion, or intoxication, or if a toxicologic antidote was administered. The database was coded by a blinded investigator, and descriptive statistics were performed.

Results: From November 9, 2009, to July 11, 2014, 3428 patients under the age of 5 were admitted to the hospital. A total of 123 cases (3.6%) met the inclusion criteria. Seventy-two patients were male (58.5%). The average age was 2.3 (SD, 0.97) years with 45 children (36.6%) under the age of 2 years. There were 19 cases (15.4%) lost to 3-day follow-up. The top 3 documented exposures responsible for pediatric poisonings were cow tick or organophosphates (36 cases, 29.2%), general poison or drug overdose (26 cases, 21.1%), and paraffin or hydrocarbon (24 cases, 19.5%).Of the admitted patients, 1 died in the ED and 2 died at 72-hour follow-up, for an overall 72-hour mortality of 2.4%. Patients who died were exposed to iron, cow tick, and rat poison.

Conclusions: Pediatric poisoning affects patients in rural sub-Saharan Africa. The mortality rate at one rural Ugandan hospital was greater than 2%.

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospitals, Rural / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Poisoning / epidemiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data
  • Uganda