Epidemiology of acute poisoning in children presenting to the poisoning treatment center at Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt, 2009-2013

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Introduction—Pediatric poisonings represent a major and preventable cause of morbidity and mortality throughout the world. Epidemiologic information about poisoning among children in many lower- and middle-income countries is scarce. This study describes the epidemiology of acute poisonings in children presenting to Ain Shams University's Poisoning Treatment Center (ASU-PTC) in Cairo and determines the causative agents and characteristics of acute poisoning in several pediatric age groups. Methods—This retrospective study involved acutely poisoned patients, 0 to 18 years of age, who presented to the ASU-PTC between 1/1/2009 and 12/31/2013. Data were extracted from electronic records maintained by the ASU-PTC. Collected data included demographics, substance of exposure, circumstances of the poisoning, patient disposition, and outcome. Results—During the 5-year study period, 38,470 patients meeting our criteria were treated by the ASU-PTC; 19,987 (52%) were younger than 6 years of age; 4,196 (11%) were 6 to 12 years; and 14,287 (37%) were >12 years. Unintentional poisoning accounted for 68.5% of the ingestions, though among adolescents 84.1% of ingestions were with self-harm intent. In all age groups, the most frequent causative drugs were non-opioid analgesics, antipyretics, and antirheumatics. The most common nonpharmaceutical agents were corrosives in preschool children and pesticides in adolescents. Most patients had no/minor effects (29,174 [75.8%]); hospitalization rates were highest among adolescents. There were 119 deaths (case fatality rate of 0.3), primarily from pesticide ingestion. Conclusion—Poisoning in preschool children is mainly unintentional and commonly due to nonpharmaceutical agents while poisoning in adolescents is mainly intentional (self-harm). Pesticides, mainly organophosphorous compounds and carbamates, were the most frequent agent leading to morbidity and mortality.