Advice needed for parents on risk of poisoning in toddlers, research says

02 Dec 2012 00:01:00.000


GPs and other primary care professionals need to warn parents about safely storing medicines and other hazardous household products in an effort to cut the number of poisonings among pre-school children, a study has said.

The research, led by academics at The University of Nottingham, recommends advising parents to store medicines out of reach of children, put them away immediately after they have been used and not to take medication in front of their children because of the risk that they will copy them.

Published in the British Journal of General Practice, the study also shows that the risk of poisoning is higher in children who live in more deprived households, have older brothers and sisters, have a younger mother or come from a single-parent family.

Click here for full story

A preventable problem

Dr Elizabeth Orton, in the School of Community Health Sciences at the University, said: “Poisoning can cause significant harm to young children and distress to parents, yet it is preventable. It is important that GPs and other healthcare professionals identify children at highest risk of poisoning and target prevention efforts to those families. Parents also need to be aware that it is normal for young children to put objects into their mouth, so it is vital that medicines and other poisonous substances such as cleaning products or cosmetics are stored out of reach, ideally above counter height and in cupboards with a door catch or lock.”

The research paper, Children at Risk of Medicinal and Non-Medicinal Poisoning: A Population-Based Case-Control Study, studied data from children under the age of five, born between January 1988 and November 2004, from The Health Improvement Network (THIN) database of 3.9 million GP patient records in the UK.

Toddlers’ tenfold risk

It discovered that toddlers aged between two and three years old were nearly ten times more likely than children under one to be poisoned by taking medication, possibly because they are at an age where they naturally begin to imitate the behaviour of adults around them.

Children from that age group were also five times more likely than children under one to need medical attention after swallowing other non-medicinal items, which may be linked to the development of their motor skills, exploratory behaviour and the tendency to put things into their mouth, as well as storage practices — for example cleaning products being stored at lower levels accessible to children.

Mental health factors

The chances of a child swallowing poison in the home were also increased if their mother misused alcohol or if their mother suffered from perinatal depression — which may be related to either a lack of parental supervision or poor storage of prescribed medicines.

The research showed that routinely available primary care data can be used to target effective safety interventions as recommended by NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence).

The academics say that primary care professionals should be advising parents on the safe storage of dangerous medicines and household chemicals and to avoid taking medicines in front of children.

Prompt identification of perinatal depression and alcohol misuse and giving out this safety advice, they add, could help to cut the number of poisonings experienced by young children.

Story credits

More information is available from Dr Elizabeth Orton on +44 (0)115 846 8312, 

Emma Thorne Emma Thorne - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5793 Location: University Park

Additional resources

No additional resources for this article

Related articles

New £3m centre to tackle age related illness

Published Date
Wednesday 7th November 2012

New research into emergency admissions for lung cancer

Published Date
Tuesday 27th November 2012

University's baby monitor technology gets a Royal viewing

Published Date
Wednesday 7th November 2012

School hearing tests: are they as good as they sound?

Published Date
Monday 8th October 2012

University lecturer and student win national midwifery awards

Published Date
Friday 25th January 2013

GPs using unreliable websites for tinnitus information, study finds

Published Date
Wednesday 12th September 2012

Breaking the cycle of educational disadvantage

Published Date
Thursday 9th August 2012

Charity echoes Ofsted concerns on safeguarding disabled children

Published Date
Wednesday 22nd August 2012

Early detection of ADHD could relieve long term consequences

Published Date
Monday 13th August 2012

Will we learn from the Winterbourne View findings?

Published Date
Tuesday 7th August 2012

University expertise used to help deaf children learn

Published Date
Wednesday 18th July 2012

Media Relations - External Relations

The University of Nottingham
YANG Fujia Building
Jubilee Campus
Wollaton Road
Nottingham, NG8 1BB

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5798