Poisoning is more common than you think

A study recently published in the Medical Journal of Australia outlined that one in four children may be exposed to something that will require a call to the Poisons Information Centre before they turn five.

The paper, written in conjunction with the four Australian Poisons Information Centre’s and The University of Sydney sheds light on the variety of poisoning exposures in Australia as well as the types of poisonings which occur within different age groups.

It is the first of its kind to give detailed national insight into poisoning across the country, looking at the latest data from 2015.

“Poisoning is more common than most people realise. Roughly one in four children will be exposed to something which requires a call to the Poisons Centre before they turn five." said Alanna Huynh, lead author and Specialist in Poisons Information at the NSW Poisons Information Centre (PIC).

Australian Poisons Information Centre’s across the country provide a 24/7 365 day service to the public and health professionals recording 205,000 calls in 2015.

The results highlights the diverse nature of calls to the PICs, with nearly 65 per cent of calls about unintentional exposures, 18 per cent were regarding medication errors and over 10 per cent of calls were to provide advice on deliberate self-poisonings (self-harm overdose).69 per cent of calls came from the general public and nearly 28 per cent were from health professionals, more than half of these from within hospitals.

The PICs fill a need for after-hours non-poisoning related enquiries such as medical and drug information, adverse drug reaction, pregnancy and breastfeeding enquires, with nearly 25,000 calls relating to these types of enquiries.

The study also shows how poisoning risks change with age, with neonates and elderly populations most likely to be poisoned as a result of a medication error.

While infants and toddlers are most likely to be accidentally exposed to household products. Adolescents are the age group most likely to be involved with deliberate-self poisoning and recreational exposures.

National information on poisoning patterns across different age groups should help inform coordinated effective poisoning prevention strategies in the future.

The first step to an effective response would be establishment of a National Centre for Poisons Information, Prevention, Research and Surveillance to lead monitoring of poisoning trends, as well as to design, implement and evaluate strategies to prevent serious poisonings.

You can contact the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26.