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School-based health promotion for poisoning prevention education in children: a National Poisons Information Service proposal to reduce poisonings in the UK

Author/s Thomas E, Spears R, Alldridge G, Krishna CV, Thompson JP, Eddleston M, Vale JA, Thomas SHL
Year 2014
Type of publication Conference proceeding

Objective: To analyse calls to UK National Poisons Information Service (NPIS) and develop a school-based, poisoning prevention program aimed at pupils 4–11 years.

Methods: The UK Poisons Information Database (UKPID) was searched for poisoning enquiries between January 2008 and December 2012 for all cases involving children aged 0–11 years.

Results: The NPIS received a total of 84,967 calls regarding children up to and including 11 years of age during this period. Of these, 19.5% (n = 16 542) involved enquiries concerning the specific target group (4–11-year-old). The number of enquiries decreases with age, the highest proportion of the target group, (4–11 years) related to the youngest children, aged 4 years (33%). Not surprisingly, the most common location for poisoning incidence was the home (87.7%), followed by schools (6.4%), public areas (2.9%), hospitals (1%), and GP surgeries (0.4%). Accidental exposures accounted for 75% (n = 605) of these enquiries and 19.6% (n = 156) were recorded as therapeutic errors; 6.2% (n = 64) of enquiries were intentional exposures in those aged 9–11 years.

Conclusion: These data suggest that poisoning prevention educational programs, focusing on children between 4 and 11 years, may help to reduce the number of children exposed to potentially toxic agents. Previous educational programs have included stand alone, generalized sessions, however, it has been suggested that this method has resulted in a lack of retained knowledge. Our proposed intervention aims to integrate poisoning awareness within the school curriculum by developing an age specific, hands-on topical approach. Schools could use these sessions as a starting point for further projects such as focused safety awareness weeks, whereby knowledge is more likely to be retained by pupils This intervention program, also anticipates that younger siblings will be inadvertently educated by their older brothers and sisters, an outcome reported with other prevention studies.


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  • Butts JD, Beck CL. Education of young children concerning poison prevention. Public Health Rep 1986; 101:90–93. 
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