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October, 2015 :15

Beware of accidental poisoning

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Clinical Directorate


Beware of accidental poisoning

Poisoning among children is a very common medical emergency seen in paediatric practice. Poisoning has been seen over the years, but received little attention. The young pre-school child is mentally and physically immature and is most vulnerable to accidental poisoning. Most poisonings happen at home when children are left unattended.

Accidental poisonings involve a person or a child with an urge to explore without wanting to harm themselves. Bad taste does not deter them from swallowing a tablet or capsule which may look like ‘Candies’. Poisoning involved 50–90 per cent of children under the age of five, especially boys. Data from Indian hospitals show that paediatric poisonings constitute three-four per cent of the total poisonings and mortality up to 11 per cent. Iron poisoning is mostly seen in younger children and can be serious. Kerosene oil accidental poisoning is seen commonly in urban set ups. Pesticide poisoning is seen more in Punjab and West Bengal whereas plant poisoning is very common in hilly areas. Significant snake envenomation is reported from rural Maharashtra.


  • Medication:Paracetamol, cold and flu remedies, cough syrup, mouthwashes, vitamins, herbal remedies, thyroid medicines, antiseptics, antibiotics, sedatives, antidepressants, heart medication and more.
  • Cleaning products: detergents, toilet cleaners and cleaning sprays, bleaches, washing machine and powders
  • Cosmetics: creams, ointments, shampoos, perfumes and aftershaves.
  • Other products: alcohol, illicit drugs, aromatic oils, pesticides, car products, glue, batteries and gardening products.
  • Poisonous plants: oleander, datura, arum lily, fox glove. Berries, mushrooms and plants with coloured leaves are harmful.


  • Do room by room survey. Ensure and store potential poisons
  • (medicines) out-of-sight and out-of-reach. Teach children to ask an adult before eating or drinking anything.
  • Do not store detergents etc in bottles and containers which normally carry foods or drinks.
  • Supervise disturbed and challenged children closely and do proper counselling.
  • Use child-resistant closures on medicine and other products.
  • Don't call medicines 'candy'.
  • Avoid taking medication in the presence of children, as they often try to imitate adults.
  • Do not trash containers openly because many adult medicines can be deadly for children.


  • Run to the emergency department or contact your doctor. Children are at risk of doing it again so be careful.
  • In case they have swallowed medicines try to make them vomit.