Warning on accidental poisoning of under-fives

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 February, 2011, 12:00am

More caution should be taken to prevent unintentional poisoning of children, the Hospital Authority says.

The Poison Information Centre, under the authority, recorded 4,420 cases of poisoning last year. Among the 981 unintentional poisoning cases, 26.6 per cent were of children under five.

Dr Tse Man-li, deputy director of the centre, told of two cases, one fatal, in which children mistook poisonous solvents as drinks.

In one case last year, a 21-month-old boy sipped from a bottle of white spirit in his father's bag. He vomited blood and had bronchial pneumonia. He was admitted to intensive care and discharged after four days.

In the other case, in 2009, a three-year-old boy drank from a bottle of potassium cyanide solution he found in his mother's bag. He developed brain damage and died in a month.

Parents in both cases had the solvent with them due to their work.

Tse warned against putting poisonous solvent in drinks bottles. He said children often searched in parents' bags for snacks and drinks. He suggested parents who needed to carry poison put it in bottles difficult to open, or leave it at work.

Of cases received by the centre, 36 per cent were attempted suicide, 22 per cent were unintentional, 13 per cent were drug abuse and 11 per cent were adverse reaction after taking drugs.

For the first time since the centre was set up in 2005, it has received a case of suicide by taking lethal proprietary Chinese medicine.

The middle-aged woman in the case died from an excessive amount of powder of mylabris, an insect. The powder was a remedy to treat sores, but was highly poisonous, Tse said. The woman took 10 grams of the powder, a thousand times more than the lethal amount, and died soon after she arrived at hospital.

In another fatal case related to traditional medicine, a 92-year-old woman committed suicide by drinking more than half a bottle of red flower lotion, a remedy for joint pain and bruises.

In November last year, the centre and the Fire Services Department launched a service for poisoning cases. The service had helped 21 patients by the end of December. Ambulance workers can call the centre about suspected cases of poisoning, including from charcoal burning, a method of suicide, and doctors at the centre can advise how to help.