Infant Poisoning May Be Due to Over-the-Counter Drugs

August 5, 2008

A substantial number of children under 2 years of age presenting at the emergency department with an apparent life-threatening event have an abnormal toxicology screen positive for over-the-counter medications, according to an article in the August issue of Pediatrics.

TUESDAY, Aug. 5 (HealthDay News) -- A substantial number of children under 2 years of age presenting at the emergency department with an apparent life-threatening event have an abnormal toxicology screen positive for over-the-counter medications, according to an article in the August issue of Pediatrics.

Raymond D. Pitetti, M.D., of the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, and colleagues conducted a prospective, descriptive study of infants under 2 years of age presenting to a pediatric emergency department with signs and symptoms of an apparent life-threatening event. All of the children underwent a standardized evaluation that included a comprehensive urine toxicology screen.

Overall, 596 children were evaluated for apparent life-threatening events, and 274 (46 percent) toxicology screens were performed, the researchers report. Fifty toxicology screens were true positives (18.2 percent), and 23 positive screen results were considered clinically significant (8.4 percent). Of all positive screens, 13 were positive for an over-the-counter cold preparation (4.7 percent), but no parents admitted over-the-counter cold preparation use, the authors note.

"To our knowledge, this is the first study to report on the use of comprehensive urine toxicology screens in children presenting with an apparent life-threatening event. A significant proportion of young infants were found to have a positive screen result for an over-the-counter cold preparation," the authors write. "We would recommend that toxicology screens be included as part of the routine evaluation of children who present with an apparent life-threatening event."

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