Accidental childhood poisoning in Calabar at the turn of the 20th century

  • SO Ochigbo
  • JJ Udoh
  • OE Antia-Obong


Background: Accidental poisoning is a preventable cause of childhood morbidity and mortality. Therefore, knowledge of the common causative agents is necessary in order to create awareness among caregivers towards its prevention.

Objectives: To document the pattern of accidental childhood poisoning in Calabar from 1996 to 2000, and to compare the findings with those of a previous study from the same centre.

Methods: A retrospective study of cases of poisoning seen at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital over five years was undertaken. The data extracted from the case files included age, sex, date of admission, poison ingested, home address, social class of parents, duration of admission and outcome.

Results: There were 45 cases of accidental childhood poisoning out of 20,539 patients seen; an incidence rate of 2.2 per 1000. Twenty-seven (60 percent) of the cases occurred in subjects aged one to two years. Thirty-three (73.3 percent) were males while 12 (26.7 percent) were females. All the cases were children whose parents were from socio-economic classes IV and V. The commonest poison was kerosene in 26 (57.8 percent) cases, followed by alcohol in 10 (22.2 percent), caustic soda in five (11.1 percent), drugs in three (6.7 percent), and bleach in one (2.2 percent). There was an overall mortality of 20 percent; the mortality rates following caustic soda, kerosene, and alcohol were 100 percent, 11.5 percent and 5.5 percent, respectively.

Conclusion: The most common agent of accidental childhood poisoning in Calabar was kerosene, followed by alcohol, while the agent with the highest mortality rate was caustic soda. The most vulnerable age group was the under two-year old. The findings of this study call for intensified health education aimed at creating awareness of the need to store these agents away from the reach of children.

Nigerian Journal of Paediatrics Vol. 31(3) 2004: 67-70

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eISSN: 0302-4660