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Hydrocarbon poisoning in children: a 5-year retrospective study.

OBJECTIVE: To investigate the demographics, incidence, and symptoms and signs of hydrocarbon poisoning in admitted children from the Negev Desert area of Israel.

METHODS: The medical records of all children admitted for hydrocarbon poisoning from 1995 to 1999 were reviewed retrospectively.

RESULTS: Of the 274 admitted children, 61% were boys and 39% were girls, with ages ranging from 6 months to 18 years (median, 1.58 years). Ninety-four percent of the patients were Moslem Arab Bedouins, and 6% were Jews. The largest group of patients (106) was admitted during the summer months (P < .003). Also, more patients were admitted in spring (63) and autumn (67) than in winter (38) (P < .013). Thirty-two percent of the cases were seen in the Pediatrics Ambulatory Unit and then discharged, while 68% were hospitalized. The most commonly observed symptoms were tachypnea (73.7%), fever (63.5%), vomiting (51.1%), and cough (38.0%). About one third of the patients showed signs of central nervous system (CNS) impairment, including drowsiness, restlessness, stupor, and convulsions. These symptoms were significantly correlated with pneumonia, hypoxemia, and fever (P < .001). Of 274 patients, 43% (118 children) had pneumonia--usually interstitial pneumonitis (90%). Vomiting was significantly correlated with pneumonia (P < .05).

CONCLUSIONS: 1) There is a higher risk of hydrocarbon poisoning during the hot months of the year; 2) the respiratory system is the main target organ affected; 3) pneumonia is in most cases interstitial and bilateral; 4) vomiting after hydrocarbon ingestion is related to the rate of development of pneumonia; 5) symptoms of CNS impairment were correlated with hypoxemia, pneumonia, and fever; and 6) CNS toxicity may occur without hypoxemia, concurrent pulmonary pathology, or other pathology.

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