Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


UC San Francisco Previously Published Works bannerUCSF

Investigating the Reliability of Substance Toxicity Information Found on the Internet in Pediatric Poisonings



The Internet may be the first source of information used by parents during a suspected poisoning of their children. Our primary aim was to assess the reliability of the Internet as a resource for information for parents to initially manage a suspected poisoning involving their child without outside consultation.


We distributed a self-administered survey to English-speaking parents to evaluate their Internet access behaviors so we could emulate their search strategies for a poisoning. A panel of clinical toxicologists performed an evaluation of Websites to determine the proportion that provided accurate and adequate information on common substances involved in poisonings.


Of 21 parents surveyed, 15 (71%) used the Internet daily, with Google and Yahoo being the most commonly used search engines. Seven parents (39%) were somewhat to very likely to utilize the Internet during a poisoning scenario with prescription medications involving their child. Overall, only 27 (38%) of the Websites reviewed advised the user to call the poison center with the proper 800 telephone number, whereas no Website provided adequate information to manage the poisoning without outside consultation. Few Websites provided information on the toxic dose (13%), how to determine whether to manage the poisoning at home or in a hospital (22%), or first aid (28%).


The information provided on the Internet for substances involved in poisonings is variable and often incomplete. Reliance on the Internet for poisonings could create needless delays and inappropriate assessments and actions to manage a pediatric poisoning incident.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View