Paraffin ingestion - the problem
Paraffin ingestion is the commonest cause of accidental childhood poisoning in South Africa. Children from the lower socio-economic group are affected most. They drink paraffin in the summer months from bottles or intermediate containers, mistaking it for water or colddrink.
The children are predominantly male with a mean age of 24 months. The clinical picture is one of respiratory distress with a hospital case fatality rate of 0,74%. The use of paraffin as a source of household energy in South Africa is on the increase. Based on a modernisation index it would seem that this trend will continue into the next century. It can therefore be expected that the number of cases of paraffin ingestion will steadily increase if no active steps are taken to address the problem.
Prevention should entail a wide spectrum of measures, the basis of which should be a child-resistant container. An effective durable, low-cost child-resistant container which is easy to pour from should be made available by petroleum companies and/or entrepreneurs and distributed through their network. This should be combined with health education on the danger of paraffin. Health care workers and administrators should be made more aware of the problem and become involved in health education and prevention.
Further research should be undertaken on the effect a change in the colour of paraffin and the use of childresistant caps would have on the incidence of paraffin ingestion in South Africa.
Copyright remains in the Author’s name. The work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial Works License. Authors are required to complete and sign an Author Agreement form that outlines Author and Publisher rights and terms of publication. The Agreement form should be uploaded along with other submissions files and any submission will be considered incomplete without it [forthcoming].
Material submitted for publication in the SAMJ is accepted provided it has not been published or submitted for publication elsewhere. Please inform the editorial team if the main findings of your paper have been presented at a conference and published in abstract form, to avoid copyright infringement. The SAMJ does not hold itself responsible for statements made by the authors.
Previously published images
If an image/figure has been previously published, permission to reproduce or alter it must be obtained by the authors from the original publisher and the figure legend must give full credit to the original source. This credit should be accompanied by a letter indicating that permission to reproduce the image has been granted to the author/s. This letter should be uploaded as a supplementary file during submission.