Intentional paediatric poisoning presentations to emergency departments during the COVID-19 pandemic

Jennifer Gatenby, Gary K.K. Low, Muhammad A. Rahman, Mark Salter, Habib Bhurawala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To characterise paediatric poisoning presentations to EDs and determine if the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic was associated with increased intentional paediatric poisoning presentations. Methods: We performed a retrospective analysis of paediatric poisoning presentations to three EDs (two regional and one metropolitan). Simple and multiple logistic regression analysis were performed to determine the association between COVID-19 and intentional poisoning events. In addition, we calculated the frequency with which patients reported various psychosocial risk factors as being an implicating factor in engaging in an intentional poisoning event. Results: A total of 860 poisoning events met inclusion criteria during the study period (January 2018–October 2021), with 501 being intentional, and 359 unintentional. There was an increased proportion of intentional poisoning presentations during the COVID-19 pandemic (261 intentional and 218 unintentional in the pre-COVID-19 period vs 241 intentional and 140 unintentional during the COVID-19 period). In addition, we found a statistically significant association between intentional poisoning presentations and an initial COVID-19 lockdown (adjusted odds ratio 26.32, P < 0.05). ‘The COVID-19 lockdown’ or ‘COVID-19’ was reported to be implicating factor for psychological stress in patients who presented with intentional poisonings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Conclusions: Intentional paediatric poisoning presentations increased during the COVID-19 pandemic in our study population. These results may support an emerging body of evidence that the psychological strain of COVID-19 disproportionately impacts adolescent females.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEMA - Emergency Medicine Australasia
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • COVID-19
  • intentional
  • paediatric
  • pandemic
  • poisoning


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