Children five years old and younger account for 69 percent of visits made to the emergency room in 2008 for accidental ingestion of drugs — and adults should take heed, HealthDay News reported Oct. 15.
According to a national survey of general hospitals performed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), children age five and younger made up 68.9 percent of an estimated 100,340 emergency room visits for accidental drug consumption. The survey did not include children’s or other specialty hospitals.
The vast majority of the emergency room visitors were three years or younger: 14.4 percent were three-year-olds; about 42.3 percent were two-year-olds; and 29.5 percent were one-year-olds.
The children ingested a broad variety of drugs, although only one percent of their visits were related to ingestion of illegal drugs or alcohol; all others were for pharmaceuticals, including prescription drugs.
The largest percentage of visits (about 41 percent) involved drugs that acted on the central nervous system, including pain relievers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen, and benzodiazepines for anxiety and insomnia. Other drugs consumed included antidepressants, antipsychotics, and those meant for the cardiovascular system, respiratory system, metabolic disorders, and topical application.
About 85 percent of the children were treated and released. Nearly 9 percent were admitted as inpatients; most of the remainder were referred elsewhere.
According to the authors of the survey report, parents and caregivers should be aware of “the danger of leaving pharmaceutical products belonging to parents or other family members in accessible places. This can pose a serious threat of accidental ingestion by infants and toddlers.”
The authors recommended that public awareness campaigns “target temporary caregivers (e.g., babysitters) and visitors to the home (e.g., grandparents) as well as immediate family members.”
The findings were published Sept. 14, 2010 in the DAWN Report from SAMHSA.