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What to Expect when you Call the Poison Help Line

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image39Just Call…The Internet is no substitute for talking to a specialist.

Over the past ten to twelve years the Internet has become convenient and valuable in our everyday lives connecting us to information at our fingertips. Indeed it is a valuable tool, but there is a concern regarding self-guided treatment in situations regarding potential poisonings where time is of the essence.  In some cases not everything is on the Internet and in other cases, there is well-intentioned but horribly misguided information about antidotes and treatment.  Instead of looking for the needle (your search) in the haystack (the Web), call the Poison Help hotline for fast and expert help 24 hours a day.

The Internet is vast with information, yet the specialist on the other end of your phone call readily has the answers to your specific question or incident.  Poison center pharmacists and nurse specialists, with years of education, experience, and extensive resources will individualize recommendations for the correct treatment for each call.  The specialist will ask about specific circumstances and information surrounding each case when you call that is unique to the poisoning incident.  A risk assessment followed by treatment advice is given specific to each call.

The Internet is a powerful tool, but not to be substituted for calling the Poison Help hotline when lives are at stake, when minutes matter, or when it may just be a simple question.  No question is too big or too small, just call.

What to do if you suspect a poisoning:

If a poisoning is suspected, call the Poison Help hotline at 1-800-222-1222.  All calls are free and answered right away.  The Missouri Poison Center is staffed 24 hours a day with specialists who are nurses and pharmacists and are backed up 24/7 by medical toxicologists.

What to expect when you call: 

The poison center staff will ask you a number of questions to help determine if a poisoning danger exists, and to aid in the treatment.  Be ready with this information:

  • Patient’s name – This is kept confidential.
  • Patient’s age and weight – Many substances and poisons affect children differently than adults.
  • Type of exposure – Was it swallowed? Inhaled? Did it get on the skin or in the eyes?
  • Time of exposure – What time did this happen?
  • Product Information – Have the container available. How much of the substance is involved or missing?
  • Have any symptoms occurred yet?
  • Phone number – We ask for a phone number for a couple of reasons. If the line gets disconnected, we need to be able to call back to continue assisting the caller.  Also, the specialists follow up to see how the patient is doing.
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