Scope of the Problem

Poisoning of young children is a common occurrence. From 1993 to 1997, poison centers in the US received over 5 million calls concerning exposures of children under 6 years (McGuigan, 1999). The majority of these are non-pharmaceuticals (59%).

There has been a dramatic reduction in deaths from unintentional poisonings to children under five both in the United States and in the other countries of the world. There have not been similar reductions in deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning and other gases, nor in deaths from accidental overdose in older adolescents and adults.

The reduction in deaths has also been accompanied by a reduction in hospitalizations among children in this age group. The reasons for this reduction in morbidity and mortality from childhood poisonings to preschool-aged children may be related to a number of factors: development in widespread use of child-resistant packaging, reduction of the number of child aspirin in bottles, the decreased use of asp irin for treatment of fever during childhood, the development of poison control centers, the use of Ipecac to induce vomiting, and better medical care for treatment of ingestions.

The prevention of poisonings doesn't offer examples of simultaneously passive strategies (e.g., child-resistant packaging and legislation such as the Poison Packaging Prevention Act) as well as more active strategies such as educational programs (both physician- and community-based). In this review, we consider some of the more common interventions which have been proposed for prevention of child poisonings:

Prevention Interventions