THOUSANDS of pre-school children have been admitted to emergency departments in Scotland after being poisoned by common household drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen.

Accidental poisonings were the second most common reason, after falls, for under-fives ending up in A&E last year.

The number of youngsters being poisoned with common pharmaceuticals also far outstrips incidents of children sickened after swallowing detergent, such as 'liquitabs', which have been highlighted in public health campaigns as a potential danger.

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Dr Steve Turner, Officer for Scotland for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said it was a warning to parents to keep pills out of reach.

He said: "This data highlights the number of young children who have had their lives unnecessarily put at risk because they have managed to get hold of household products, particularly painkillers.

"Swallowing these types of products can cause intense stomach pain, nausea, drowsiness and fainting fits. In severe cases, it can also lead to death."

It is thought that most poisonings are caused by children mistaking pills for sweets, or by parents accidentally overdosing them.

Since 2011, more than 3000 children ranging from newborn babies to four-year-olds have been admitted to hospital in Scotland for emergency medical treatment as a result of poisoning.

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This included 532 under-fives in 2016/17 alone, the most recent year for which data is available. None of the cases were fatal.

A breakdown of the statistics, compiled by ISD Scotland, reveals that more than half of these incidents - 290 - were caused by drug poisoning. This included 149 poisonings with painkillers such as paracetamol and pills for reducing fever, such as aspirin or ibuprofen.

However, there were also 31 incidents of under-fives hospitalised after consuming mind-altering psychotropic drugs, such as antidepressants, sedatives and tranquilisers, and 21 cases of under-fives sickened by hallucinogens or narcotics such as opioid-based painkillers.

In comparison, just 34 children were hospitalised for toxic effects from biting into soaps and detergents.

The perils of washing machine capsules have been highlighted previously following a spate of young children requiring medical attention after suffering chemical burns when they swallowed the tablets, mistaking then for sweets.

However, the figures reveal that the risk from common household medications is much higher.

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Dr Turner, a respiratory paediatrician at Aberdeen Children's Hospital, added: “No parent wants to see their child put at risk and with so many of these products enticing to young inquisitive hands, it is important parents keep them out of reach.

“Of course some medications like ibuprofen are safe when given to a child but only in the correct dose. Parents can check this by looking at the manufacturers guide or by speaking to a doctor.

"If advice isn’t followed, families face a trip to A&E and potentially devastating consequences.”

The ISD Scotland figures also reveal that there has been a steady increase in deaths from poisoning among people aged 15 and over.

Between 2011 and 2016, the number of fatal poisonings for this age group has climbed by 84 per cent, from 461 to 850, in line with record Scottish drug deaths.

The statistics do not provide a breakdown for the cause of death, but separate figures on the 2,720 emergency admissions for poisoning in 2016/17 reveal that most - 2,080 - were the result of overdoses with pharmaceuticals such as non-opiate painkillers, sedatives, antidepressants and narcotics, which can include heroin, methadone and cocaine as well as prescription medications such as codeine and morphine.

This compares to 18 cases of alcohol poisoning.