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GPs should advise on safe storage of medicines and household products

Study finds primary care data can be used to target interventions

Ingrid Torjesen

Tuesday, 04 December 2012

Routinely available primary care data can be used by GPs to target effective safety interventions to parents about storage of medicines and non-medicinal products, according to a study published in the British Journal of General Practice

Every year around 16,000 children are admitted to hospital in England because of poisoning by medicines or non-medicinal products which they have consumed. Most are pre-school children over the age of one.

NICE guidance on injury prevention published in 2010 recommends that GPs provide safety advice and refer families at greatest risk of injury for home safety assessments and for safety equipment provision. However, this did not include guidance on how to establish which children are at greatest risk.

In a large study of almost 4 million medical records, Dr Edward Tyrrell and colleagues from the University of Nottingham identified a number of factors associated with poisoning.

Children aged two to three years were most likely to accidentally poison themselves. They were almost ten times more likely to be poisoned by medicine and five times more likely to be poisoned by non-medicinal products than those under the age of one. The gender of the child was not found to be a significant risk factor.

Other risk factors included socio-economic deprivation, maternal age, and birth order, with third-born children having a much greater risk of poisoning. Living in a household with two or more adults seemed to be protective against poisoning. Maternal alcohol abuse and perinatal depression were linked to higher rates of poisoning by medicine.

Dr Tyrrell said: “Primary care professionals should advise parents on safe storage of medicines and household products and to avoid taking medicines in front of children.

“This is particularly important when prescribing for children/family members, including when prescribing for perinatal depression, as medications may become poisoning agents.”

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