Aims: To investigate the problem of children presenting to hospital with alcohol intoxication.
Methods: An observational study was conducted over 18 months profiling children who presented to hospital with acute alcohol intoxication, proved by laboratory tests on blood alcohol levels (BALs). The study was part of a multicentre-funded injury prevention project based on the widely accepted Canadian Hospital Injury Reporting and Prevention Programme.
Results: 62 children (31 boys), mean age 14.5 years, presented with alcohol intoxication proved by BALs. The mean BAL was 203 mg/dl (standard deviation (SD) 80.7). As a point of reference, 56 (90%) children had BAL above the UK legal driving limit of 80 mg/dl. The most common type of alcohol consumed was spirits, in the form of whisky, gin, vodka and tequila. No significant association was seen between age and BAL. Children with high alcohol levels were much more likely to have lower Glasgow Coma Scores (p<0.001), but in contrast with conventional teaching, there was no association between blood glucose levels and BALs. The median Glasgow Coma Score on admission to the emergency department was 12. 15 (24%) children had a score ⩽8/15. Injuries were present in 21 (34%) children, most of which were minor injuries. Minor head injury was most common, accounting for 42% of the injuries. The most common cause of injury was a fall.
Discussion: The results of this study confirm the heavy use of alcohol by some young children. This highlights a definite problem, which needs to be dealt with by a variety of measures, giving particular consideration to the ease of access to alcohol by children.
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Competing interests: None declared.
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