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A poisoning prevention program aimed at adolescents in Wales: is it needed?

Author/s Wheatley N, Cooper G, Alldridge G, Thompson JP, Eddleston M, Vale JA, Thomas SHL
Year 2014
Type of publication Conference proceeding

Background: Paediatric poisoning has a bimodal distribution. Most cases occur in children < 5 years old with a second peak > 12 years. Exposure in the first group usually involves accidental poisoning.

Poisoning prevention in this group has been widely studied with only a few poisoning prevention interventions being considered successful. Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center (HIPRC) looked into best practices of poisoning prevention and found little value in community and physician-based educational programs in reducing poisoning in children. Reducing pack sizes and implementing child-proof containers have proved effective. These measures were aimed at children under 5 years. Exposure patterns in adolescents are different, mainly taking substances in two ways: recreational abuse or to self-harm. Educational initiatives aimed towards decreasing the recreational abuse of drugs in this group are available within Wales. However, whilst some charitable organizations aim to prevent youth suicide, there is little focus on poisoning as a means of self-harm.

Objective: Review statistics from AWISS (All Wales Injury Surveillance System) and UKPID (United Kingdom Poisons Information Database) involving cases of poisoning in Wales, focusing on trends in age and gender. From these results, to look at developing a trend-focused educational program for adolescent children, focusing on deliberate self-poisoning for children aged 11–19.

Results: The AWISS data from 2009 to 2012 show that in Wales, emergency attendances to hospitals due to poisoning were greater in adolescents than in young children. Twenty-nine per cent of attendances involved children (0–4 years), 55% involved 15–19 years, and 10% those aged 11–14 years. In the age range 0–4 years, the distribution between sexes is even; in the 11–14 and 15–19 year age ranges, 67% and 62% of attendances were female. UKPID data show that there are more calls regarding females in the age groups 11–14 and 15–19 years (60% female to 40% male for both age groups) whereas in children < 5 years it is evenly distributed.

Conclusion: An education program aimed at the prevention of adolescent poisoning needs to be considered in Wales. This program, while highlighting the role of substances used to self-harm, should be aimed at adolescents, and consideration should be given to the gender balance involved.

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