We often think of accidental ingestions as potentially tragic events involving toddlers and young children. Even older infants who are mobile enough to explore their territory can find trouble. According to a new study published in Pediatrics this month, infants under 6 months of age with limited mobility are also vulnerable to unintentional poisonings. Kathryn Doyle looks at the data:

The researchers looked at National Poison Data System files on exposure calls for infants aged six months or younger between 2004 and 2013.

There were more than 270,000 exposures over the 10-year period and almost all were unintentional.

Half were general, unintentional exposures, which includes the baby exploring and consuming a hazardous substance.

Almost 38 percent of the calls were for so-called therapeutic errors, and the great majority of these involved medication dosing with a different amount than intended, or medication given twice or too soon, the wrong medication given, or medication delivered by the wrong route.

Almost all exposures happened in the home, and most involved a single substance, usually a liquid…


As one might expect, infants ingesting soaps and creams used during bath time or diaper changes resulted in some of the more common calls to poison control centers. Accidental ingestion of medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen, antihistamines, antibiotics, and cough and cold products were also common in this study:

Although newborns and infants are not very mobile, they may get into medicines accidentally when a caregiver gives them a bottle of pills to use as a rattle or when an older sibling finds a medication and gives it to the infant…

“Caregiver should try to be aware of the surroundings in which they place an infant because even if they are not mobile, they can still grab things within reaching distance (e.g. plants, objects at a diaper changing station, etc.) and the first thing they will do is put it in the mouth,” Kang said.

“Be mindful of older siblings and restrict their access to dangerous substances because they may share things that they find,” and don’t use pill bottles as toys, he added.


Poison Control Center:  1-800-222-1222



The PediaBlog has previously examined accidental poisoning in children here.