Accidental poisoning kills hundreds of children in India every year, especially those in the second year, says a study.
According to Jaipur-based paediatrician Ashok Gupta, the reported incidence of childhood poisoning in India varies from 0.03 per cent to 7.6 per cent.
In his book Paediatric Neurology in Tropics, Gupta quotes figures from a government study according to which poisoning accounts for 0.03 per cent mortality in infants, 0.16 per cent in the 1-4 years age group and 0.37 per cent mortality in the 5-14 age group.
"The peak incidence of accidental overdoses is in the second year of life. As much as 85 per cent of accidental poisoning affects children under five years of age," Gupta said.
Explaining, he says that as infants begin to crawl and then walk at around one year, their instincts lead them to explore the environment. They begin putting objects into their mouth as part of this exploration.
By two-and-a-half to three years, the child's motor development and curiosity lead it to reach for things potentially noxious. The fourth year heralds a decline in the incidence of accidental poisoning as the child now tends to be selective in choosing things to put in the mouth.
Gupta said that poisoning accidents tend to be higher among children belonging to the lower economic strata owing to poor storage facilities in such households.
Central nervous system (CNS) dysfunction is a prominent feature of many types of poisoning and intoxications. "Poisoning or toxin exposure logically should be considered in the diagnosis of a child with unexplained coma or altered state of consciousness, unusual behaviour, psychosis, seizures, muscle weakness, involuntary movements or autonomic disturbances," Gupta said, adding that the clinical syndrome presented by a child with poisoning may be similar to that of a child with epilepsy, head trauma, encephalitis, acute psychiatric diseases or even one of progressive degenerative or metabolic disorders of the CNS.
Careful neurological examination is must as it could help in finding characteristics of specific toxins.
His book was released a few days back in Geneva by Adenike Grange, president of International Paediatric Association, and Professor Evrard Philippe, former president of International Child Neurology Association.