Paraffin poisoning in children: what can we do differently?

  • Ntambwe Malangu National School of Public Health, University of Limpopo (Medunsa Campus), PO Box 200, Medunsa 0204, South Africa
  • WJ Du Plooy Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, University of Limpopo (Medusa Campus), Pretoria, South Africa
  • GA Ogunbanjo Department of Family Medicine and Primary Health Care, University of Limpopo (Medusa Campus), Pretoria, South Africa
Keywords: paraffin poisoning, children, antibiotic overuse, South Africa


Background: The purpose of this study was to describe the occurrence, health cost and management of paraffin poisoning in a rural South African hospital.

Methods: A retrospective study was undertaken of 145 children admitted with a diagnosis of paraffin poisoning at Philadelphia Hospital, Mpumalanga from January 2000 to June 2001. A pre-tested form was used to collect data from the admission files. Where applicable, the Chi-square test or t-test was used to determine statistical significance.

Results: Children younger than five years of age were affected significantly more than those older than five years of age (91% vs. 9%, p<0.001), and boys were affected more than girls (58% vs. 42%, p=0.034). The average length of stay and cost oftreatment were 2.5±2 days and R617.24 respectively. Prophylactic antibiotics were prescribed in 86% of cases (125/145) and the average number of medications prescribed per child was 3.5±1.8.

Conclusions: Although no mortality was reported, paraffin poisoning contributed substantially to the morbidity of, health expenditure for and antibiotic overuse in these children. Provision of child-resistant paraffin container caps, retraining of doctors on appropriate antibiotic use and community education are necessary and crucial in reducing the occurrence of paraffin poisoning in children.

Keywords: paraffin poisoning, children, antibiotic overuse, South Africa

South African Family Practice Vol. 47(2) 2005: 54-56


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2078-6204
print ISSN: 2078-6190