A 3-year survey of acute poisoning exposures in infants reported in telephone calls made to the Tygerberg Poison Information Centre, South Africa

Carine J Marks, D J van hoving


Background. Infants undergo rapid development changes and are particularly vulnerable to toxic chemicals. Identifying and evaluating the toxic risks that exist in this age group could be very valuable when making recommendations on how to prevent specific types of poisoning.

Objectives. This study analysed the toxic substances responsible for acute poisoning exposures in infants (<1 year of age) as well as the severity of the exposures.

Methods. A retrospective analysis of the Tygerberg Poison Information Centre (TPIC) database was conducted over a 3-year period (1 January 2011 to 31 December 2013). Descriptive statistics are provided for the entire study population as well as for the neonatal subgroup (<30 days old).

Results. The TPIC handled 17 434 consultations during the 3-year study period. Infants were involved in 1 101 cases (6.3%), of which 46 cases (4.2%) were neonates. Most enquiries about infants were associated with non-drug chemicals (n=824, 74.8%). Pharmaceuticals were involved in 185 cases (16.8%) followed by biological exposures (e.g. snake and spider bites, scorpion stings, plant and mushroom poisonings) (n=109, 9.9%). Most infants (n=987, 89.6%) presented with no or only minor symptoms. In neonates, 17 (37.0%) presented with moderate to severe toxicity. Six of these (35.3%) were poisoned by complementary and alternative medicines.

Conclusion. Most poisoning exposures in infants are not serious and can be safely managed at home after contacting a poison centre. Identification and documentation of poisoning in this special population is of great importance.

Authors' affiliations

Carine J Marks, Division of Clinical Pharmacology, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town

D J van hoving, Division of Emergency Medicine, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town

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South African Journal of Child Health 2016;10(1):43-46. DOI:10.7196/SAJCH.2016.v10i1.1045

Article History

Date submitted: 2015-10-22
Date published: 2016-03-29

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