Infant intoxication cases on the rise again in Estonia

Infants (illustrative).
Infants (illustrative).

Cases of intoxication in children under the age have become more frequent over the last two years. Examples include cases where infants have ingested formula or porridge used with water mixed with vinegar or limescale removing agents.

A little over 3,000 cases of intoxication requiring hospitalization and 4,000 where people call the poison hotline 16662 are registered in Estonia annually. Cases of intoxication have become more frequent among infant children over the last two years. Most accidents happen at home, often as a result of parents hurrying or failing to spot dangers.

Most cases of intoxication in infants and small children involve chemicals and medicines. Over 200 cases of intoxication of children under the age of one have been registered this year, with the figure growing to over 600 for children up to three years of age.

Mare Oder, head of the Estonian Poison Information Center, said that more and more cases of poisoning are caused by various liquids in small 10-milliliter bottles.

"People, when tired or simply by mistake, grab the wrong bottle. We get calls where people have accidentally given their children essential oils, calendula tincture, ear drops or other substances. To avoid such situations, medicine should be kept separately from other small bottles," Oder said and recommended the use of small boxes that are easy to tell apart by looks.

Infants can also suffer from intoxication after ingesting formula or porridge made using water mixed with vinegar or limescale remover.

"People pour vinegar or a limescale agent into the water heater before going to bed at night and forget about it by morning. We also receive calls where such a mix has been used to make soup for the whole family, tea or coffee," Oder said.

Accidents of intoxication usually occur at home. The number of cases also heads up during the summer visits period as children spend time in households they're not entirely familiar with. Oder recommends keeping an eye on guests' handbags and removing potentially hazardous items from coat pockets etc.

The number of cases of intoxication in infants and small children that require hospitalization is falling as a general trend. But calls made to the 16662 hotline suggest that cases of home intoxication accidents are on the rise. Mare Oder said that most such accidents are caused by parents hurrying or being exhausted.

"These are common mistakes, while intoxication can be avoided by calmly thinking through one's domestic situation. The most effective way is to create a system of storing and using hazardous chemicals and medicines that makes sure these substances are out of the reach of children even when parents are tired or in a hurry," she explained.

Oder said that children start mimicking their parents' behavior at an early age, which is why it's best practice to use household chemicals and drugs without the children watching.

"Swallowing small pills and getting past childproof stoppers is a game of discovery for them. That is why we should avoid opening safety packaging and taking pills with children present."


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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