Poison prevention practices and medically attended poisoning in young children: multicentre case–control study

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Childhood poisonings are common, placing a substantial burden on health services. Case–control studies have found inconsistent evidence about modifiable risk factors for poisonings among children aged 0–4 years. This study quantifies associations between poison prevention practices and medically attended poisonings in children aged 0–4 years.


Multicentre case–control study conducted at hospitals, minor injury units and family practices from four study centres in England between 2010 and 2013. Participants comprised 567 children presenting with unintentional poisoning occurring at home and 2320 community control participants matched on age, sex, date of event and study centre. Parents/caregivers provided data on safety practices, safety equipment use, home hazards and potential confounders by means of self-completion questionnaires. Data were analysed using conditional logistic regression.


Compared with community controls, parents of poisoned children were significantly more likely not to store medicines out of reach (adjusted OR (AOR) 1.59; 95% CI 1.21 to 2.09; population attributable fraction (PAF) 15%), not to store medicines safely (locked or out of reach (AOR 1.83; 95% CI 1.38 to 2.42; PAF 16%) and not to have put all medicines (AOR 2.11; 95% CI 1.54 to 2.90; PAF 20%) or household products (AOR 1.79, 95% CI 1.29 to 2.48; PAF 11%) away immediately after use.


Not storing medicines out of reach or locked away and not putting medicines and household products away immediately after use increased the odds of secondary care attended poisonings in children aged 0–4 years. If associations are causal, implementing these poison prevention practices could each prevent between 11% and 20% of poisonings.

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