Oral Chemical Burns Reported to the Poisons Information Centre in Erfurt, Germany, from 1997 to 2014

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Devastating oral burns often followed by lifelong complications can result from ingestion of caustic substances. However, although being one of the most challenging situations in clinical practice, literature data on the epidemiology of oral burns are still scarce. Retrospective analysis of all cases of oral burns after ingestion of corrosive substances reported to the Poisons Information Centre in Erfurt, Germany, from 1997 to 2014 was performed. In total, 482 calls because of oral burns were registered, with no change in the numbers of cases during the years. In the majority of the instances (47%), toddlers were affected, followed by middle-aged adults (33%). In both age groups, the male sex prevailed. Ingestion of corrosive substances with babies, schoolchildren, adolescents, and elderly were much less frequent. In most cases (78%), the injury occurred accidentally and only in 5% of the instances in suicidal intent; 85% of the suicidal attempts were committed by middle-aged adults and 15% by elderly. Main agents involved in oral burns were cleansing agents (37%), remedies (12%), disinfectants (7%), acids or bases (6%), technical fluids (6%), cosmetics (5%), and foods (5%). Mostly, the calls came from emergency department doctors (58%), in 19% laymen were calling from home, and in 18% the calls came from a doctor’s office. Most of the injuries occurred accidentally, in the domestic setting and in toddlers, and would have been preventable. Thus, a more comprehensive education of the population, especially of parents, regarding the dangers arising from household chemicals is still needed.

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