Children's

Common Calls to the Regional Poison Control Center

The Regional Poison Control Center (RPCC) at Children’s of Alabama gets a variety of calls every day. The RPCC takes a variety of steps to ensure you and your child’s safety and keep you out of the emergency room, best of all its free and entirely confidential.

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The majority of calls the RPCC receives are about pediatric exposures. The most common 

exposure for children is household cleaning supplies. Many of your household cleaning supplies can look similar to edible substances for children. When making a call to the RPCC for this circumstance, they recommend you bring the product that your child was exposed to with you to the phone so ingredients can be verified off the label.

The following are other questions that a poison control specialist will ask you:

  1. Age, weight, allergies, current medication and prior diagnosis?
  2. How long ago did the exposure happen?
  3. What are the current symptoms?
  4. How much was ingested, inhaled or got on the skin or in the eye?
  5. Any first aid measures that you have already administered.

In this type of circumstance, the RPCC recommends that you do not try to induce vomiting after an ingestion because this could worsen the symptoms.

The poison control specialist will analyze all of the data and possible outcomes then decide whether it is treatable at home or whether the patient needs to go to the emergency department.

Last year, the RPCC was able to keep 9 out of 10 children under six years of age from going to the emergency department, which can be a costly experience. It only takes 3-5 minutes for a poison specialist to make an evaluation.

Thirty- four percent of RPCC exposures pertain to adult exposures. The number one poisoning in adults are analgesics, which is very common in terms of medication errors. The poison specialists, who are nurses and pharmacists, evaluate each case individually.

These are the questions that the specialist will ask:

  1. What was the exposure? What type of exposure – ingestions, inhalation, dermally, or ocular?
  2. How much?
  3. Age, weight, allergies, current medication and prior diagnosis?
  4. What are the current symptoms?
  5. Any first aid measures that you have already administered.

From this information, the specialist looks at the amount ingested per body weight and will help the patient decide whether it is necessary to go to the emergency department.

In 2018, the RPCC handled 100,801 calls, both incoming calls and follow up calls. The majority of the RPCC come from the lay public (705), while 30% of calls came from doctors, nurses, pharmacists, paramedics and other health care professionals. The RPCC is available to all ages. Within the past year, they handled patients that ranged from 1 day to 99 years old.

The Regional Poison Control Center at Children’s of Alabama is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including holidays, for questions or emergencies regarding poisons. One national number, 1-800-222-1222, will connect you to your local poison center. Be sure to program this number into your cell phone and keep it visible in the home and workplace.

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