Iron poisoning--a preventable hazard of childhood

S Afr Med J. 1985 Apr 27;67(17):680-3.


We retrospectively studied the records of all patients with poisoning due to excessive iron ingestion admitted to a children's hospital during a 7 1/2-year period. There were 80 such children, aged between 0,6 and 3,93 years. Almost half were severely poisoned. Most children took iron tablets intended for their mothers or aunts as a supplement during pregnancy. These were packed in easy-to-open plastic packets. Estimates of the number of tablets taken were unreliable. All 29 children who received parenteral desferrioxamine (Desferal; Ciba) on presentation survived, whereas 3 of the 51 children in whom desferrioxamine therapy was delayed died. Late morbidity from brain damage and intestinal strictures was not assessed. Many cases of iron poisoning in childhood could be prevented by strip-packaging of iron tablets. Parenteral desferrioxamine should be given without delay whenever a child is suspected of having swallowed excessive iron tablets.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Deferoxamine / therapeutic use
  • Drug Packaging
  • Female
  • Ferrous Compounds / poisoning
  • Gastric Lavage
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Iron / poisoning*
  • Male
  • Mortality
  • South Africa


  • Ferrous Compounds
  • ferrous sulfate
  • Iron
  • Deferoxamine