Enquiries Related To Child Poisonings Rise

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The Health Protection Agency commissioned National Poisons Information Service (NPIS) has reported an 11% rise in the number of telephone enquiries from health professionals relating to incidents involving children aged under 10 years.

Around 92 per cent of the 18,864 enquiries were caused by the accidental poisoning of children with substances found in the home such as ibuprofen, paracetamol and the desiccant silica gel.

The latest NPIS annual report also reveals the following trends in cases related to adults across the UK:

* An increase in telephone and online enquiries relating to the recreational drugs benzylpiperazine and gamma gammabutylactone (GBL).

* For the first time telephone enquiries are being received for new stimulants dimethoxybromophenethylamine (2C-B) and trifluoromethylphenylpiperazine (TPMPP), although these remain rare.

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* A continuing reduction in telephone and online enquiries relating to MDMA and amphetamines.

* A dramatic reduction in enquiries about the painkiller co-proxamol, following its recent phased withdrawal.

In 2008/9, NPIS received more than 625,000 poisons-related telephone and online enquiries from health care professionals - up 19% from 2007/8. There were in excess of 570,000 online enquiries, up 20%. NPIS has encouraged the use of online enquiries as a first point of call for information while its telephone service is devoted to more complex cases. More than 57,000 telephone enquiries were answered in 2008/09, an increase of around 9%.

Hospitals accounted for 61% of online enquiries and 36% of the telephone enquiries. Enquiries from NHS Direct (in England and Wales) and NHS 24 (in Scotland) accounted for 31% of online sessions and 19% of the telephone enquiries.

Dr John Cooper, director of the HPA's Centre for Radiation, Chemicals and Environmental Hazards said: "Poisonings accounted for more than 500,000 NHS hospital bed days in the United Kingdom according to the latest available annual figures. The work of the NPIS is essential in encouraging the best possible care for those suffering serious effects while preventing unnecessary hospital emissions when the risk to health is low."

Professor Simon Thomas, director of NPIS (Newcastle), added: "The high proportion of our enquiries that involve children continues to be a concern. Parents and guardians should do all they can to keep children away from contact with potentially harmful medicines and from chemicals used in the house or garden. Where possible, these substances should be kept locked away and in child-proof containers."

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