Unintentional childhood poisoning and quality of home treatment given by caregivers as reported at the children emergency room of a teaching hospital in Nigeria

  • B.I. Abhulimhen-Iyoha
  • I.A. Mbarie


Background: Some children encounter and suffer the dreadful consequences of poisoning. In a bid to save life or at least prevent severe complications of ingested poisons, caregivers tend to give some form of home treatment before the victims are taken to the hospital. Such treatment, which may be beneficial or harmful, has not been sufficiently evaluated particularly in our study locale.

Objective: To evaluate the treatment administered by caregivers after episodes of unintentional childhood poisoning before presentation to hospital.

Design: Descriptive cross sectional study.

Setting: The Children Emergency Room (CHER) of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria.

Subjects: Caregivers who brought their children to the CHER of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) in Benin City, South-south Nigeria on account of ingestion of poisons were interviewed. A structured questionnaire was used to assess their biodata, type of poison, if treatment was given at home before presentation to CHER and if so, the sources of information that influenced the type of treatment they administered.

Results: Majority (87%) of the caregivers gave some form of treatment at home whereas 13% did not. The treatment mostly (80.4%) adopted was the oral administration of palm oil forcefully to the children, followed by induction of vomiting (26.1%) by sticking fingers into the child’s throat. Some caregivers administered more than one form of treatment modalities. The treatment adopted by caregivers were influenced by the disposition of neighbours (41.3%), grandmothers (15.2%) and friends (6.5%). There was no statistically significant relationship between children’s age, sex, socioeconomic class of the family and level of education of the caregivers (mothers) on one hand and forms of treatment given at home on the other.

Conclusions: Most caregivers embark on some form of treatment after episodes of unintentional poisoning in their children before taking them to the hospital. The treatment given is mainly non-beneficial or harmful. Therefore, there is need for public enlightenment programmes on preventive strategies as well as appropriate intervention following episodes of unintentional poisoning (should they occur). The establishment of Poison Control Centres in the nation will be a step in the right direction.


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eISSN: 0012-835X