Introduction to Poison Control

Poison Control refers both to steps you can take to ensure that no one in your household is poisoned, as well as the associated system of centers that exists across the United States, as well as in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The American Association of Poison Control Centers consists of sixty-one Poison Control Centers across the United States and fourteen US Poison Prevention and Education Centers.

While not every state has a Poison Control Center within its borders, every state is assigned to a center. So, for example, Alaska is assigned to the Oregon Poison Center, while Vermont is connected to the Northern New England Poison Center, located in Maine. No matter what the location in the United States and its territories, the Poison Control number is the same:


Poison Control offers around the clock service and has Text Telephone (TTY) and translation services available for those who are deaf or whose first language is not English.

The Purpose of Poison Control

doctor Poison Control was created to handle definitive cases of poisoning, but there are other important kinds of information that they can provide.

You should call Poison Control:

  • If you think someone may have been poisoned, but you’re not sure.
  • If someone accidentally (or purposefully) took too much medication.
  • If you have a question about medication or about a combination of medications that someone is taking.
  • If you have a poison prevention question.
  • If someone has eaten something that is not food or medicine.
  • If you notice something unusual about food, drink, or medication, and want to check on its safety.
  • If someone has been stung or bitten by an animal.

When to Call Poison Control

Sometimes calling Poison Control is the first thing you should do. Sometimes it isn’t. Poison Control brochures clarify what steps to take in what order in different situations.

This is a summary of their instructions :

  • If a person has collapsed or stopped breathing: Call 911
  • If a person’s eye has gotten poison in it: Rinse the eye with running water for 15-20 minutes. Then (or simultaneously) call Poison Control.
  • If a person has poison on the skin: Remove any clothing that has touched the poison; rinse the spot with running water for 15-20 minutes. Then (or simultaneously) call Poison Control.
  • If poison has been inhaled: Remove the person (and anyone else who might breathe the poison) to a location with fresh air, and call Poison Control from there.
  • If a person has taken the wrong medicine or too much medicine: Call Poison Control immediately.
  • If a person has swallowed something that is neither food nor medicine: Give the person a small amount of milk or water and then call Poison Control.

Note: Poison Control no longer recommends keeping or using ipecac in cases of poisoning.

What to Tell Poison Control

The first thing to tell Poison Control is whether your call is an emergency. Then give the following information:

  • The name of the product or medicine involved
  • The age, gender, and weight of the victim

You can give your name and phone number in order to stay in touch or choose to remain anonymous: in either case, any information you give is kept confidential.

The Poison Control staff may ask you about the type of poison, the amount that the victim was exposed to, the timing of the exposure, and how the victim appears in the present.

Where Is Poison Control?

To find the physical location, contact information, and web address (if one exists) for your state’s assigned Poison Control center, check the list at the American Association of Poison Control Centers web site. The site also has an international directory of Poison Control Centers, as well as contact information.

Written by Mary Elizabeth

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