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Diverse range of queries to national poisons centre – annual report

By Catherine Reilly - 16th Dec 2021

telehealth:smartphone with stethoscope and keyboard

The National Poisons Information Centre of Ireland (NPIC) has today launched its 2020 Annual Report.

The report highlights the diverse range of queries received by the centre in 2020. Particularly of note in 2020 was the change in the nature of queries due to the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic. The annual report is based on data collected from enquiries to the NPIC from members of the public, healthcare professionals and others.

Last year saw a small decrease of enquiries by 1.25 per cent when compared to 2019 totalling 11,687 enquiries. However, March 2020 was the busiest month of the year for the centre with over 1100 queries. The centre saw a five-fold increase in calls concerning hand sanitisers from March to July 2020 compared to the same period in 2019 (21 calls in 2019 compared to 134 in 2020).

The NPIC is responsible for providing information to healthcare professionals to assist them in the management of acute poisoning. The Centre also run the Public Poisons Information Line for members of the public who are concerned about accidental poisoning.

Once again, the annual report identifies paracetamol and ibuprofen as the medicines most commonly associated with queries to the centre in 2020. Disinfectant, antiseptics, and hand sanitisers were the fourth most common agents identified with a total of 608 queries received.

Approximately 67 per cent of queries in 2020 involved children and adolescents, with those aged between one and four accounting for 45 per cent of all queries.

Dr Edel Duggan, Clinical Director of the NPIC, noted: “2020 was a challenging year for staff at the NPIC. With the emergence of Covid-19 in March we saw a major increase in queries particularly related to hand sanitiser and other products designed to protect us all from infection.

“As we have all continued to spend more time at home throughout 2021, we all need to be aware of the household products which could affect children, especially younger children who may not recognise the danger of these products.”

Dr Duggan added: “The Public Poisons Information Line is available seven days a week between 8am and 10pm for queries from the public, aimed at parents, where we can rapidly advise if you need to seek urgent medical attention for your child. Outside of these hours parents should contact their GP service or a hospital emergency department. Healthcare professionals can contact the NPIC 24 hours a day, every day.” The annual report can be read at the following link – https://poisons.ie/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/2020-NPIC-Annual-Report-.pdf

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