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I had to call the Illinois Poison Center

Posted: April 13th, 2010 | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Last week, a Chicago Mom Blogger posted her experience with the Illinois Poison Center (IPC).  Accidental pediatric ingestions of potentially harmful substances make up over 50% of our calls in Illinois; we receive 40,000 to 45,000 calls annually regarding children 5 and under.  There are over 1.2 million calls in the U.S. fielded by designated poison centers from this age group.  It is an incredibly common story, but very often, an untold story.

There is a tremendous reluctance among people who use our service to discuss their experience with the Illinois Poison Center.  I could look at our past surveys and e-mails comments on why callers do not want to tell their story and compile a very long list; but here are some of the most common reasons given:

  • It doesn’t matter, no one else will do what I did to their child
  • People will think I am a bad parent
  • Someone is going to report me to DCFS
  • I am going to get reported to immigration
  • I am so embarrassed about what happened and don’t want anyone to know
  • Surely so many people call, someone else can share their story

The reality is that people’s personal stories carry lessons for us all.  I can put together tables and graphs of dry statistics, but a personal tale, in almost any communication forum, will carry more weight than an impersonal factoid.  In those stories, there is a common thread within the shared experience that we can all relate to.  There is an opportunity to share our fears and relief; and the potential to learn from each other so that we can have happier, healthier homes and families.

Some of the IPC staff have submitted a poster presentation for the 2010 North American Congress of Clinical Toxicology, the largest scientific toxicology conference of its kind.  The focus of the poster is on how methanol poisoning can occur.  Did you know that over 30% of cases of methanol ingestion called to the IPC occurred because the substance was transferred from the original container to another container such as a water bottle, Gatorade bottle or other unlabeled container?  That statistic is compelling to me, but without context it is just a number.

A story of how it could have happened is a powerful reminder of how important it is to keep chemical products in their original labeled containers.  The typical scenario we hear is “There was a small amount of windshield wiper fluid left in the jug, so I put the little bit that was left in an empty Snapple bottle that was in the car.  I forgot about it for a couple of weeks and my wife and son took the car to his basketball game.  After the game, my son was thirsty and saw the bottle of blue liquid and . . . ”

A story such as this from a real person adds context to how easily these accidents can happen.  So tell your story.  Educate us all on how we can learn and improve on our choices and decisions.  We would love to read about them in our comment section below or on the IL Poison Center Facebook discussion board.

Until next Tuesday,


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Related posts:

  1. Welcome to the Illinois Poison Center Blog
  2. You might say the Illinois Poison Center is the antidote to unnecessary health care costs
  3. Free Materials for Illinois Poison Prevention Month
  4. A Day In the Life of a Poison Center
  5. The downside of inadequate poison center funding

6 Comments on “I had to call the Illinois Poison Center”

  1. 1 Bria Murray said at 5:18 pm on April 14th, 2010:

    Dear IL Poison Control Center,

    Thank you so much for all the awesome work you do! My son has pica and it often feels like my day consists of three things: changing diapers, kissing boo-boos and screaming, “FOR THE LOVE OF PETE GET THAT OUT OF YOUR MOUTH.” I only once have had occasion to call you: after my son ingested dog poop during a visit to a friend’s house to see their new puppy. I first called his (useless) pediatrician, concerned first about the toxicity, and second, because of the fact that the dog had not gotten all of its shots yet, my son might have ingested a parasite via the feces. His doctor actually told me that she was “damned if she knew” if it was toxic and if there were any risks of him getting a parasite and I should “probably go to the ER to get his stomach pumped, just in case.” (We’ve since switched pediatricians.)

    Your excellent advice (it happens, don’t worry, keep watch for signs of fever or changes in mood/behavior, which might indicate something is wrong) saved me and my son a long, costly trip to the ER. The woman I spoke to on the phone was courteous, understanding and informative.

    People need to realize that we are all just human – we make mistakes, we do stupid things. Even the best parents can’t have their eyes on their children 24/7. Even the most cautious individuals slip up every now and then. Sometimes, no matter how careful you are, accidents happen. That’s why they call them “accidents.” There is no shame in calling for help. I would rather call for help a hundred times than write everything off as “no big deal” and have my child, myself or some one I love suffer as a result.

    I hope I never have need to call you again (knock on wood), but if I do, it is a great comfort knowing that I will be met by polite, caring individuals who genuinely care about the individuals on the other end of the line.

    Thanks again!

  2. 2 Laura said at 6:29 pm on July 19th, 2010:

    Thank you for the reminder that the people on the other end of a poison control line call care and are kind. We’ve had to call a couple of times now and I always worry a little that we will get in trouble for calling too much–how silly to worry that you are concerned for your child when something unexpected (even if you blame yourself) happend. The old adage is true–better safe than sorry!!

    Laura B.

  3. 3 IPC said at 8:52 am on July 21st, 2010:

    Hi Laura,

    Thanks so much for your kind words. We definitely understand that some parents may be a little hesitant about calling the IPC more than once; but you are exactly correct when you say “better safe than sorry!” We pride ourselves on being a trusted resource, therefore parents and the general public, can rest assure that all calls are confidential. So if you need to call a million times, you can. No matter how big or small the situation, we’ll be here 24/7 365.

    P.s. We’d love to hear more about your IPC experience. By going to you can start the process. Hope to hear from you.

  4. 4 Illinois Poison Center Blog » Blog Archive » Take Home Lessons: Kids and Cleaning Product Spray Bottles said at 1:53 pm on August 10th, 2010:

    […] parent or guardian, children will get into things.  Callers should not feel embarrassed or guilty to call us at any time.   Visit our website at for more poison prevention tips and a how to […]

  5. 5 Illinois Poison Center Blog » Blog Archive » Back to School Means Changing Schedules…and Potentially Much More! said at 1:14 pm on August 24th, 2010:

    […] 2. I Had to Call the Illinois Poison Center […]

  6. 6 Illinois Poison Center Blog » Blog Archive » Ways To Deals With Unwelcome Fall House Guests said at 10:40 am on September 21st, 2010:

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