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Unintentional paediatric poisoning in rural Victoria: Incidence and admission rates


  • Work completed at: Wimmera Health Care Group, 83 Bailie Street, Horsham, VIC 3400.

Correspondence: Dr Daryl Cheng, 246 Clayton Rd, Clayton, VIC 3168 Email:



Unintentional paediatric poisoning is one of the leading causes of childhood emergency department presentations in Australia. This study aimed to assess the incidence and hospital admission rates of unintentional paediatric poisonings in rural Victoria.

Design setting and participants

A retrospective audit of all paediatric poisonings in an 86-bed rural Victorian hospital over the period 2000–2010 was conducted. The paediatric age group was classified as 0–14 years per the National Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion Plan. Poisonings were classified according to the International Classification of Diseases, 10th revision, diagnostic codes ranging from T36-T65.


To our knowledge, this is the first article providing a snapshot of paediatric poisoning in rural Victoria. Fifty-seven cases met eligibility criteria and were analysed. Medicines were the predominant poisoning agent (75.4%), with the predominant agent being paracetamol. More than half of cases (61.3%) were admitted for hospitalisation, with four having complications requiring further intervention or patient transfer. This was significantly higher than previous data and could be due to lack of specialty staff and equipment, differing attitudes of medical staff and longer travel distances. The average length of stay in hospital was 1.31 days. Poisoning by chemicals and agents was low, despite increased availability of farm chemicals. A small proportion of cases were due to venom-related poisonings.


Although rates of paediatric poisoning seem to be lower in this particular rural setting, admission rates continue to be significantly higher than comparative urban figures. Further research and education is needed to gain a better understanding of this important public health topic