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Teaching, Treating, and Problem Solving Poisonings

Posted: February 8th, 2012 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

…A Unique Medical Partnership: Toxikon and the Illinois Poison Center

What happens if:

  • Someone is stung by a lionfish?
  • Eats a poisonous mushroom in the forest preserve?
  • Drinks a Lava Lamp?
  • Swallows too many iron pills?
  • These are all examples of problems that the partnership of the Illinois Poison Center (IPC) and the Toxikon Consortium have handled.  Toxikon, based at Cook County’s Stroger Hospital is a partnership with the University of Illinois and the IPC. There are a total of ten physicians, and two pharmacy toxicologists in our group.  The physicians of Toxikon provide the medical back-up to the IPC. For example if an IPC specialists receives a call about a very strange poisoning or the person is very, very sick, we step in to offer assistance on the case. In addition, Toxikon is also the home for training the next generation of physicians to take care of poisoning emergencies.

    Physicians nearing the end of their training in emergency medicine and pediatrics; and medical students come to train at Toxikon to learn how to deal with poisoning emergencies that they will see throughout their career.  The partnership with the IPC has led to teaching over 1,000 doctors, medical and pharmacy students to be ready for anything.

    So what’s the best answer to any poisoning emergency?  Prevention!  However, if it happens, Toxikon and the IPC have a system that can access the latest information on any unique poisoning or exposure within minutes.

    Making an impact:

    Most hospitals in the state do not have a toxicologist on staff.  However, one quick and simple call to the IPC hotline will let you access medical experts and information for free. This network provides telephonic medical toxicology consults to doctors throughout Illinois and assists in delivering the best poisoning care possible.

    Toxikon has also become a national leader in education and scholarships in the field of medical toxicology, and is recognized by peers as one of the top training models in the country.

    So what do we do in those situations above?

    • Stung by a lionfish:  Immerse the effected area in non-scalding warm water, and seek examination by a physician.
    • Eat a poisonous mushroom:  Take digital photos of the mushroom and send them to the IPC.  The case will be discussed with a member of Toxikon for medical treatment. The images will be identified by our mycologists around the state based at institutions like the Field Museum, Chicago Arboretum, SIUE and others.
    • Drinks a lava lamp:  This is not a good situation.  This patient may need to have dialysis to prevent kidney damage.
    • Swallows too many iron pills:  This person will need x-rays to see if pills are in the stomach, and may need an intravenous antidote called Deferoxamine.
    • A new designer drug hits the streets:  this is where the partners of Toxikon, the IPC, our national organizations, and public health all need to work together to identify the new drug and rapidly determine specific methods of detection and treatment.

    Remember to always call the poison center first, if you or someone you know is experiencing a poison emergency. You can call the IPC at 1800-222-1222 at any time to access the experts at the IPC or the Toxikon Consortium.

    Dr. Steve Aks

    Director, The Toxikon Consortium;

    Emergency Physician, Cook County Hospital

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    2 Comments on “Teaching, Treating, and Problem Solving Poisonings”

    1. 1 Nessie said at 1:57 pm on March 6th, 2012:

      Where would one send pictures of mushrooms? Should we send them as MMS messages to 1800-222-1222, or is there an email address?

    2. 2 IPC said at 12:12 pm on March 7th, 2012:

      Hi Nessie!

      Thanks for reading and the great question! Every poison center handles mushroom calls differently. Your best bet is to call the 1-800-222-1222 (it isn’t set up to take MMS just yet 🙂 ) to reach your local poison center for instructions on sending mushroom images.

      Hope that helps!

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