Parents are told that the Poison Control Helpline is a resource available to call in case they or someone they know is poisoned. The concept sounds simple, but it can be confusing because poison comes in several different forms. According to the American Association for Poison Control Centers, a poison is “anything someone eats, breathes, gets in the eyes or on the skin, that can cause sickness or death if it gets into the body.”
Poisons can be swallowed, inhaled, or enter the body through the skin or eyes. Some harmful poisons include plants found in nature (mushrooms, holly berries, poison ivy, pokeweed etc.), household items (paint, mouthwash, nail polish remover, oven cleaners, antifreeze, furniture polish, detergent, etc.), medication (cough and cold medicine, iron supplements, prescription drugs, etc.) and invisible poisons within the home such as carbon monoxide or lead in paint. Poison Control centers also manage calls regarding snake and insect bites, food poisoning, sun poisoning and accidental ingestion of marijuana edibles or other drugs.
When should I call Poison Control and how does it work?
Poison Control is a government funded service staffed by nurses or pharmacists who are specially trained to assist callers who have been poisoned or suspect so. The phonelines are open 24/7 and depending on your state, there may be several languages available. In most cases, if you or your child is poisoned, you should just call poison control right away using the toll-free nationwide number: 1-800-222-1222
Once you have a poison control specialist on the phone, be prepared to answer a series of questions to the best of your ability. Some of these questions include: age of the patient, your relationship to the patient, presence of symptoms, exact name of the product (read the label), strength of the product, size of the container, amount of exposure and contact information such as name, phone number and zip code of the patient.
Once this information has been collected, the specialist will guide you on whether it is appropriate to call 911, go to the hospital, or if there is a way to counteract the poisoning with an antidote or prevent it from getting worse. In some cases, Poison Control may tell you that the symptoms are not life threatening and that there is nothing to be concerned about.
If you ever have a question about your child’s health and development, want to schedule a check-up appointment, or are looking for a Denver-area pediatrician and want to learn more about our practice at Mountainland Pediatrics, call us at 303-430-0823.