Costs of Kids Eating Poison

Caustic ingestion injuries causing thousands of days in the hospital and millions in care

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Warning labels are definitely helping parents keep poisonous materials out of their kids' mouths, but it's still costing consumers millions in hospital bills.

The number of children hospitalized for swallowing hazardous materials is costing consumers almost $23 million in hospital charges, a recently published study has found, which is lower than previously reported.

Researchers say this may be due to successful government policies and legislative efforts, though injuries still pull on major healthcare resources.

"Keep harmful materials away from kids' reach."

Because children can unknowingly ingest harmful materials such as lye, the Federal Caustic Act of 1927 was passed, which required dangerous substances to be labeled to prevent children from getting sick.

Though previous studies have shown that the number of ingestion injuries has gone down, the newest study, led by Christopher Johnson, MD, from the Department of Otolaryngology at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, aimed to find how many children were hospitalized for injuries caused by swallowing and ingesting caustics and corrosive materials.

They gathered data through the 2009 Kids' Inpatient Database, which provides information on all discharged hospital patients 20 years of age or younger.

They found that 807 children 18 years of age and younger were hospitalized for ingestion injuries in 2009, or 1.08 per 100,000 children annually. Almost 60 percent were children younger than 4 years old.

This resulted in $22.9 million in total hospital discharges with each patient spending almost $29,000 on average. They were hospitalized a little more than four days each, accounting for about 3,330 total inpatient days.

Among the children, about 45 percent had the connecting tube between their mouth and stomach examined, especially patients who were hospitalized at teaching hospitals.

Researchers say this may be due to trainees needing the experience or the higher level of acuity present there.

"Based on the weighted estimate, the prevalence of pediatric caustic ingestion injuries in the United States during 2009 appears to be much lower than the figure widely stated in the literature," researchers wrote in their report.

"The finding of a decreased prevalence of caustic injuries makes sense given the public health interventions currently in place."

Researchers note that their study is limited to only the data reported by hospital administration and does not include poison control centers or other emergency departments. The authors do not report any conflicts of interest.

The study was published online December 17 in the journal Archives of Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery by JAMA. Funding information was not available.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 17, 2012
Last Updated:
July 5, 2013