oa Southern African Journal of Epidemiology and Infection - A profile of acute poisoning at selected hospitals in South Africa : original research

Volume 24, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1015-8782
  • E-ISSN: 2220-1084



The aim of this study was to characterise acute poisoning cases admitted to a number of selected hospitals in South Africa. All cases admitted to eight hospitals, from January 2005 to June 2005, were evaluated retrospectively. Data obtained from the hospital medical records included the following: demographic characteristics, toxic agents, length of hospital stay, circumstances of poisoning, morbidity and mortality information on the poisoned patients. From a total of 424 patients admitted for treatment, whose median age was 17.6 years, 57.8 % were females, and 89.6% black Africans. Fifty-nine percent of the poisonings were accidental, and the involved toxic agents were, in descending order: household chemicals (45.7%), modern medicines (17.5%), animal/insect bites (15.8%), agrochemical chemicals (9.7%), food poisoning (5.4%), drugs of abuse (3.3%), traditional medicines (2.4%), and plants (0.2%). Poisoning by drugs of abuse was commoner in males than females, but the percentage of females poisoned by all other toxic agents was higher than in males. Most patients spent less than two days in hospital, but more females (70.1%) than males (29.9%) stayed for more than two days. The overall case fatality rate was 2.4%. Of those who died, 80% were black Africans, aged 13 to 19 years and it was deliberate poisoning through drugs of abuse, carbon monoxide and agricultural chemicals. Acute poisoning reviewed in some selected hospitals in South Africa revealed that more black African females were involved, who spent more than two days hospitalised. The case fatality rate was 2.4%, mainly due to drugs of abuse, carbon monoxide and agricultural chemicals. These findings suggest that further studies are needed to understand the motivation(s) for this emerging problem and that these should focus primarily on the female black African.

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Article metrics loading...


This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error