Every day, by the hour, lives are being saved. Why? Because of the presence of poison control centers. Across the nation there exist 55 poison centers who assist with various poisoning emergencies as well as answer questions and provide any information to help prevent poisonings. Specially trained poison experts, known as Specialists in Poison Information (SPI), at each poison center include nurses, pharmacists, toxicologists and physicians. They can be reached 24 hours a day by calling the toll-free Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222, which then connects you with your local poison center.
The idea for a poison center came from a part-time secretary from the American Academy of Pediatrics during the early 1950s. The secretary contacted hospitals in Chicago to find out why children were in the emergency room with certain problems. What had they eaten? What did they drink?
At the time, companies did not have to tell people much about the ingredients in their products. The secretary asked companies about the ingredients in their products that might be making children sick. She then asked a group of medical professionals to create treatment guidelines for as many products as possible. When doctors had questions, they would call her, and she would read medical advice to them off the note cards.
Soon after, the U.S. Surgeon General ordered copies of her 1,000 index cards to be sent to health departments across the country. From this, the first poison center was founded, and the idea spread throughout the nation.
What do Poison Centers Offer
· Help with a poisoning emergency, which can often be treated over the phone rather than calling 911 or visiting the emergency room. (Which saves Emergency Rooms or Ambulance costs)
· Medical advice for healthcare professionals and the general public.
· Real-time de-identified data collection that aids in detecting public health emergencies.
· Free and confidential help, with interpretation services available in over 100 languages.
· Assistance with pill identification.
· Help with all types of poisonings including insect, snake or spider bites, plants, household chemicals, medication mix ups or overdoses and more.
· Poison Prevention Poster and Video Contest Annually
· Free educational materials
· Free educational presentations
What information to have readily available when calling a poison control center?
· How old is the patient?
· About how much does the patient weigh?
· What is the name of the product or substance involved? Be as specific as you can-it can help to have the bottle or packaging with you on the phone. Poison experts use a database that contains detailed information on thousands of products.
· How much of the substance did the patient swallow, breathe in or get on their skin? If you don't know, the poison specialist will help you estimate.
Based on this information, the poison specialist will tell you what you need to do. It could be as simple as drinking some water or eating a Popsicle. In some circumstances, they may need to send you to the hospital. If so, they will ask which hospital you are closest to and call ahead to let them know you are coming.
The poison center will also collect a little bit of personal information from you for your medical chart-your first name, the patient's first name, your phone number and the zip code you are calling from. This information is confidential. This information is important because it helps us to find your case if you need to call us back for any reason.
For questions or concerns, call the Texas Poison Center Network experts at 1-800-222-1222.
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