Kids Under 6 Account for Two-Thirds of Drug-Related ER Visits

Children aged 5 years or younger accounted for 68.9 percent of the estimated 100,340 U.S. emergency department visits in 2008 that involved accidental ingestion of prescription medicines and other drugs, says a U.S. government report. About two-fifths of these children were 2 years old and 29.5 percent were 1 year old. Males accounted for 55.7 of the cases, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) report released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Pharmaceuticals were involved in 99 percent of cases involving young children, while illicit drugs or alcohol were involved in only 1 percent. "While caretakers may be alert to securing obviously dangerous substances such as cleaning products and chemicals, they may be less aware of the danger of leaving pharmaceutical products belonging to parents or other family members in accessible places," noted the agency in a press release. "This can pose a serious threat of accidental ingestion by infants and toddlers."

Drugs that act on the central nervous system such as acetaminophen products, ibuprofen products, and benzodiazepines were involved in 40.8 percent of the cases. Of these cases, most involved pain relievers and anxiety and insomnia drugs. Other types of drugs accidentally ingested by young children included cardiovascular medications, respiratory system medications, antidepressants and antipsychotics , topical medications and drugs for metabolic disorders. The report said that most of the youngsters were treated and released, while 8.7 percent were admitted to the hospital. Of those, about 20 percent were admitted to the intensive or critical care unit.
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