Products that resemble foods and appeal to children Potential risks of accidental ingestion
2. What makes children and elderly people more likely to swallow such products?
- 2.1 What makes children more likely to swallow such products?
- 2.2 Why might some elderly people swallow such products?
2.1 What makes children more likely to swallow such products?
Young children are inquisitive, put things in their mouth and
are not aware of consequences so they are the age group most
likely to drink poisons by accident, particularly between 6
months and 6 years. Fatal poisonings are more common in children
under the age of 1 but the peak time for non-fatal poisonings is
between the ages of 1 and 4. The danger is particularly high for
toddlers - at around the age of 2, when young children become
more mobile and able to get hold of poisons. Often children take
just one sip or a swallow and the typical amounts drank are
between 4.5 ml and 9 ml.
Accidental poisonings may be more likely when the children are
not supervised closely and the adults are distracted, for
instance because they are preparing a meal or doing other
chores. Children who are thirsty or hungry are more likely to
drink from any open container within their reach, particularly
if the smell is nice. There are still many cases which are
related to storing corrosive solutions in unlabelled containers
or even drinking bottles which other adults unknowingly give to
Statistically, there is a higher risk of accidental injuries,
including poisoning in families of low socioeconomic status.
Many factors could be involved such as stress, education and
income of the family and absence of parents. Poorer families
tend to have more hazards in the home, but identifying potential
dangers can be difficult for parents of all incomes and
accidental poisonings also happen in wealthy households.
The way in which toxins are broken down, stored and excreted
by the body is different for children than it is for adults
which could make them more
adults.. This is especially true for very young children, but by
the time they are 2, most of the biological factors that affect
the way the body deals with poisons have matured.
The nervous, reproductive, endocrine and immune systems go
through important developmental stages during childhood so
exposure to poisons at this crucial time can have particularly
2.2 Why might some elderly people swallow such products?
For the purpose of this opinion, the elderly are considered as
persons aged 75 years and above, when many people show some
physical and mental decline as a result of aging.
This natural deterioration often causes no problems unless the
body is under stress because of an infection, illness or, as in
this study, following accidental poisoning. In this case,
elderly people are worse affected than younger people, recover
more slowly and could suffer permanent damage. The outcome is
even more serious if the elderly person also has some physical
or mental disease, is under or malnourished or suffers
Although accidental poisoning in the elderly is a significant
problem, there is very little research on probable causes but
several factors are likely to play a role. Many people over 75
have trouble smelling and seeing properly and cannot easily tell
when a substance is toxic.
Those who are disoriented because of illness or medication are
more likely to confuse food and non-food items.
Older people are generally aware of hazards in the home and of
safety information in products. However, a significant
proportion find it difficult to handle products and packaging,
or have memory difficulties so that they cannot follow long sets
of instructions or warnings, particularly if these are written
in small print that is hard to read.
Elderly people are particularly vulnerable because they are
often left by themselves for extended periods and they are not
under constant observation. If they have an accident, they may
not call for help immediately or at all if they feel ashamed or
not sure of what has happened.