First aid interventions by laypeople for acute oral poisoning

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Background: Oral poisoning is a major cause of mortality and disability worldwide, with estimates of over 100,000 deaths due to unintentional poisoning each year and an overrepresentation of children below five years of age. Any effective intervention that laypeople can apply to limit or delay uptake or to evacuate, dilute or neutralize the poison before professional help arrives may limit toxicity and save lives. Objectives: To assess the effects of pre-hospital interventions (alone or in combination) for treating acute oral poisoning, available to and feasible for laypeople before the arrival of professional help. Search methods: We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, ISI Web of Science, International Pharmaceutical Abstracts, and three clinical trials registries to 11 May 2017, and we also carried out reference checking and citation searching. Selection criteria: We included randomized controlled trials comparing interventions (alone or in combination) that are feasible in a pre-hospital setting for treating acute oral poisoning patients, including but potentially not limited to activated charcoal (AC), emetics, cathartics, diluents, neutralizing agents and body positioning. Data collection and analysis: Two reviewers independently performed study selection, data collection and assessment. Primary outcomes of this review were incidence of mortality and adverse events, plus incidence and severity of symptoms of poisoning. Secondary outcomes were duration of symptoms of poisoning, drug absorption, and incidence of hospitalization and ICU admission. Main results: We included 24 trials involving 7099 participants. Using the Cochrane 'Risk of bias' tool, we assessed no study as being at low risk of bias for all domains. Many studies were poorly reported, so the risk of selection and detection biases were often unclear. Most studies reported important outcomes incompletely, and we judged them to be at high risk of reporting bias. All but one study enrolled oral poisoning patients in an emergency department; the remaining study was conducted in a pre-hospital setting. Fourteen studies included multiple toxic syndromes or did not specify, while the other studies specifically investigated paracetamol (2 studies), carbamazepine (2 studies), tricyclic antidepressant (2 studies), yellow oleander (2 studies), benzodiazepine (1 study), or toxic berry intoxication (1 study). Eighteen trials investigated the effects of activated charcoal (AC), administered as a single dose (SDAC) or in multiple doses (MDAC), alone or in combination with other first aid interventions (a cathartic) and/or hospital treatments. Six studies investigated syrup of ipecac plus other first aid interventions (SDAC + cathartic) versus ipecac alone. The collected evidence was mostly of low to very low certainty, often downgraded for indirectness, risk of bias or imprecision due to low numbers of events. First aid interventions that limit or delay the absorption of the poison in the body We are uncertain about the effect of SDAC compared to no intervention on the incidence of adverse events in general (zero events in both treatment groups; 1 study, 451 participants) or vomiting specifically (Peto odds ratio (OR) 4.17, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.30 to 57.26, 1 study, 25 participants), ICU admission (Peto OR 7.77, 95% CI 0.15 to 391.93, 1 study, 451 participants) and clinical deterioration (zero events in both treatment groups; 1 study, 451 participants) in participants with mixed types or paracetamol poisoning, as all evidence for these outcomes was of very low certainty. No studies assessed SDAC for mortality, duration of symptoms, drug absorption or hospitalization. Only one study compared SDAC to syrup of ipecac in participants with mixed types of poisoning, providing very low-certainty evidence. Therefore we are uncertain about the effects on Glasgow Coma Scale scores (mean difference (MD) -0.15, 95% CI -0.43 to 0.13, 1 study, 34 participants) or incidence of adverse events (risk ratio (RR) 1.24, 95% CI 0.26 to 5.83, 1 study, 34 participants). No information was available concerning mortality, duration of symptoms, drug absorption, hospitalization or ICU admission. This review also considered the added value of SDAC or MDAC to hospital interventions, which mostly included gastric lavage. No included studies investigated the use of body positioning in oral poisoning patients. First aid interventions that evacuate the poison from the gastrointestinal tract We found one study comparing ipecac versus no intervention in toxic berry ingestion in a pre-hospital setting. Low-certainty evidence suggests there may be an increase in the incidence of adverse events, but the study did not report incidence of mortality, incidence or duration of symptoms of poisoning, drug absorption, hospitalization or ICU admission (103 participants). In addition, we also considered the added value of syrup of ipecac to SDAC plus a cathartic and the added value of a cathartic to SDAC. No studies used cathartics as an individual intervention. First aid interventions that neutralize or dilute the poison No included studies investigated the neutralization or dilution of the poison in oral poisoning patients. The review also considered combinations of different first aid interventions. Authors' conclusions: The studies included in this review provided mostly low- or very low-certainty evidence about the use of first aid interventions for acute oral poisoning. A key limitation was the fact that only one included study actually took place in a pre-hospital setting, which undermines our confidence in the applicability of these results to this setting. Thus, the amount of evidence collected was insufficient to draw any conclusions.




Avau, B., Borra, V., Vanhove, A. C., Vandekerckhove, P., De Paepe, P., & De Buck, E. (2018, December 19). First aid interventions by laypeople for acute oral poisoning. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. John Wiley and Sons Ltd.

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