The class 9 student of a Delhi government school who died on Sunday succumbed to internal bleeding caused by an overdose of iron-folic acid tablets, doctors said.
Sapna Pal reportedly popped 50-60 tablets.
“She was brought to Hindu Rao Hospital on May 5 with complaints of stomach ache and blood in the stool. On taking her history, the doctors realised she had taken 50-60 iron folic acid tablets. This led the doctors to suspect that there might be ulcerations in her gastro-intestinal tract and iron depositions in her organs,” said Dr DK Seth, director of hospital administration for North Delhi Municipal Corporation.
“The question is how did the girl get hold of so many tablets? The hospital has registered a medico-legal case and an autopsy has been performed. The reports are awaited,” said Dr Seth.
According to officials from the Directorate of Education, the girl had been given eight tablets on May 4 along with other students at Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyakaya in Wazirpur and complained of stomach ache the next day.
The eight tablets were to be consumed over eight weeks during summer holiday — one every week, the officials said.
The iron-folic acid tablets are given once a week to 13 crore school-going children from class VI-XII to combat adolescent anaemia under the Weekly Iron and Folic Acid Supplementation (WIFS) programme.
“The other children in her class shared that for the past few days she looked disturbed. Though she was not crying and but remained in isolation,” said a senior Directorate of Education official.
When the girl complained of stomach ache, the family suspected it was menstrual pain and bleeding and she was taken to a neighbourhood doctor, who put her on glucose after which her hands started to swell. She was referred to Hindu Rao Hospital.
“Since the doctors at Hindu Rao suspected iron toxicity, she was given chelation (a treatment under which medicines which can bond with iron and flush it out with urine are administered). Despite their best efforts, the girl died due to liver failure and bleeding in her stomach and intestines,” said Dr Seth.
The Delhi government has ordered an inquiry by SDM Saraswati Vihar into the death, a government spokesperson said.
Iron-folic acid tablets are considered to be safe if given in proper dose. “Iron and folic acid tablets do not cause any reaction, especially such severe reactions. The compounds naturally occur in many food items like spinach, apples etc. It is given to children who are growing so that they do not get anaemia,” said Dr SP Byotra, head of department of medicine at Sir Ganga Ram hospital. The medicine is routinely given to pregnant women too.