In a poison emergency, the first thing to do is not panic. Help is just a phone call away. The national Poison Hotline at 1-800-222-1222 is your best resource to find out what to do in a poison emergency. The Poison Hotline is staffed by nurses and pharmacists experienced in toxicology who are referred to as CSPIs (certified specialists in poison information).

They are uniquely qualified to give treatment advice over the phone. Some of the key pieces of information they will need in order to assess the situation include: The victim's age and weight, the substance involved and how it came into contact with the victim, how much of the substance was taken and any existing health problems of the victim. CSPIs have access to a national database of toxic substances. Utilizing their expertise allows over 80 percent of the poison accidents to be managed outside of a medical facility. This results in a reduction in the over-utilization of the EMS system and emergency room visits. Even those victims who are referred to a medical facility for a poison emergency were found to have better outcomes when Poison Control was contacted.

Why not call 911 instead? There are several advantages to calling the Poison Hotline in a poison emergency. The first is that you get immediate treatment advice from an expert. Secondly, the chances of avoiding an unnecessary emergency department visit increase significantly. However, there are certain key circumstances in which 911 should be called prior to the Poison Hotline. These include when a person has difficulty breathing, is having convulsions, has lost consciousness or is experiencing changes in their behavior or mental status. The Poison Hotline can also be used for routine questions about poisons. It is both an emergency and educational resource that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. TDD services are available, as well as, translation in 140 languages.

Created on August 25, 2009

Medication Safety Alerts

FDA Safety Alerts

Show Your Support!

ISMP needs your help to continue our life saving work