NEWS

Fewer cases of poisoning recorded among children

It appears parents are becoming more careful about hiding away medication and household cleaning liquids, given a small but steady reduction over the past few years in the number of cases of poisoning, which unfortunately involve children above all. According to the Aglaia Kyriakou Children’s Hospital poisons department, there were only 39,071 cases in 2003, compared to about 43,000 in 2002. Over half of all emergency calls are from within Attica, yet even these have dropped comparatively, from 69 percent of cases in 2002. Nearly all cases occur within the home. Children aged up to 4 years comprise over one-third of all cases. For all ages, the main agents (44.5 percent) of poisoning are by medications (chiefly tranquilizers, sleeping pills, antibiotics and paracetamol). Another 22.8 percent are by ingesting household cleaning agents, chemicals (8.4 percent) and cosmetics (4.6 percent). Very young children (aged up to 4) in particular are at risk of swallowing household cleaning agents (45 percent of cases). Together with cosmetics and chemicals, these comprise 69 percent of cases for this age group, indicating a greater need to keep these objects out of reach. Detergents and bleaches accounted for 2,651 cases and cigarettes another 1,320, mostly involving infants imitating their parents. Another 593 children suffered alcohol poisoning. In recent years, there has been a worrying increase in suicide attempts, chiefly by young women. In 2003, there were 6,148 attempts, up from 4,972 in 1995. Finally, the Poison Center’s Information Center received 1,359 calls in 2003 concerning drugs (mostly antibiotics, analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs) taken during pregnancy and breast-feeding.