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Poisoning accidents among children: New App Facilitates First Aid and Prevention

24/2013, 22.08.2013

Federal Minister Aigner presents new offer at the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment

Joint press release from the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV) and the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR)

Around 200,000 calls are received every year at the nine poison information centres in Germany. Roughly half of the cases involve children. Poisoning is the second most common type of accident among children after falls. The most common cause of poisoning among children is the swallowing of household cleaning agents, above all detergents and body care products. Although poisoning of this kind usually only produces light symptoms, if any at all, cases involving medications, toxic plants, caustic substances and lamp oil can be dangerous. Correct professional assessment by a poison information centre and prompt first aid measures are important in all instances. Cases of poisoning must be treated properly, depending on their type and severity.

What to do, for example, if a child has accidentally drunk a caustic cleaning agent or liquid barbecue lighter? The new app "Poisoning Accidents Among Children" produced by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) cannot substitute a call to a poison information centre or the emergency services, but it provides valuable support to parents and child carers to help them keep a cool head and make the right decision in difficult situations like this. The new app also provides background information on chemicals, medicines, plants and fungi which can result in poisoning in children. It also contains valuable tips on how accidents can be prevented in the first place. "Many accidents could be avoided if parents, grandparents, carers, minders and teachers knew the risks and always kept hazardous products safely out of harm’s way. The new app gives important tips and can provide help quickly in the event of an accident. With this new offer, we want to contribute above all to ensuring that there are fewer poisoning accidents among children in future," said Federal Minister Ilse Aigner at the presentation of the app on Thursday in Berlin. "The app is an important information source and reference work, even without a direct internet link. In an emergency, the app can even be used to call the responsible poison information centre directly," explained Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel, President of the BfR, which developed the app.

The app contains details of the ingredients of chemical products, medicines, plants and fungi, along with the clinical picture and first aid measures, but it cannot substitute medical consultation in an emergency. Medical advice can be obtained immediately, however, thanks to the option of contacting the next poison control centre directly at all times via the app.

The contents of the app are based on the BfR brochure “Risk of Poisoning Accidents Among Children”, which was produced in cooperation with the emergency poison hotline Giftnotruf Berlin and federal work group “More Safety for Children” (BAG) and published by the BfR. During the development of the app, the BfR was advised by external, independent expert panels which included the BfR committee for the assessment of poisonings, whose honorary members support the work of the BfR. The committee cooperates closely with the German poison information centres and corresponding national and international scientific societies.

The BfR app “Poisoning Accidents Among Children” is available free of charge with immediate effect. It was developed for smartphones with the operating systems Android and iOS. As of today, it can be downloaded free of charge in app stores.

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About the BfR

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientific institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV). It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

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