Increase in Rate of Hospitalizations for Pediatric Intentional Acetaminophen Ingestion at a Single Center During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Rachel E. Moss, Emily H. Hertzberg, Hannibal Person, Guillaume Stoffels, Sheemon Zackai, John Bucuvalas, Jennifer K. Gillen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objectives: Social disruption due to COVID-19 has detrimentally affected American adolescents’ emotional well-being. Within our system, pediatric acetaminophen ingestions increased in 2020, compared with previous years. We sought to evaluate the rate of hospitalizations for acetaminophen self-harm ingestions and self-harm of adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic. Study Design: We identified patients (aged 0-23) from billing data with diagnosis of acetaminophen ingestion with self-harm intent (ICD-10 code T391X2A), from a multicenter urban, quaternary health care system. We performed retrospective chart review from 2016 to 2020 and performed statistics using a generalized estimating equation (GEE) logistic regression model. Results: From 2016 to 2020, there were 25 790 discharges of adolescents with 65 acetaminophen self-harm ingestion and 148 self-harm discharges. Of the 65 acetaminophen patients, 75% identified as female and 54% identified as non-white; 71% with Medicaid insurance. The proportion of acetaminophen ingestion and self-harm admissions increased from 0.13% in 2016 to 0.46% by 2020 and 0.42% in 2016 to 0.73% by 2020, respectively. The odds of acetaminophen ingestion admission increased by 28% each additional year (odds ratio = 1.28; 95% confidence interval: 1.08, 1.53; P =.006). There was not enough evidence to conclude that the log-odds of a self-harm ingestion were linearly related to time (P =.06). Conclusions: Acetaminophen ingestion for self-harm has significantly increased, while overall self-harm has increased to a lesser, nonsignificant degree. Primarily females of color and those with Medicaid insurance are affected. It is important to note this growing, disturbing trend, and to continue to screen for depression in our adolescent community and ensure access to mental health resources.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-300
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Pediatrics
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2023


  • Acetaminophen
  • COVID-19
  • ingestion
  • mental health


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