Children with ASD Are at a Significantly Increased Risk of Poisoning

January 23, 2023

Kids Aged 5-9 and Those with Co-occurring ADHD or ID Are at Even More Risk

A team of researchers from Columbia University recently analyzed data concerning emergency department (ED) visits due to poisonings of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The data obtained from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample for 2016-2018 estimated how often children with ASD aged 1-20 visited the ED for poisoning. The authors investigated poisonings associated with ASD alone and in the presence of co-occurring attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or intellectual disability (ID). The study identified 523,232 ED visits of children on the spectrum, including 12,152 (2.3%) visits for poisoning. Approximately 73% of these visits were related to pharmaceutical drugs, such as psychotropic medications and prescription opioids. Sadly, 16.6% of these poisonings were intentional. About 36% were unintentional, and 47% were undetermined. Children with ASD aged 5-9 had the highest odds of poisoning-related ED visits compared to all other age groups. The odds of poisoning for children on the spectrum were 59% greater than for neurotypical children. The team also identified a higher risk among children with ASD with co-occurring diagnoses of ADHD or ID.  To address this problem, the authors suggest pediatric and ED providers become aware of the increased likelihood of poisoning-related injuries among kids with ASD. Additionally, they advocate for medical professionals to educate caregivers and families on ways to reduce the risk of unintentional poisoning injury, particularly for boys between the ages of 5-9. The authors highlight that safe medication storage through medication lock boxes or cabinet locks for homes with children with autism is extremely important. 

Original Study

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