- IPC specialists are healthcare professionals specially trained in toxicology.
The person who will answer your call is a physician, pharmacist, nurse or other healthcare provider who, on average, has over 15 years of experience at the IPC. Collectively, our current staff has handled over 1.2 million cases regarding an exposure to a potentially harmful substance. Yes you are calling a 1-800 number for free, but the person on the other end is NOT an operator or a volunteer. You can be sure that the person you talk to is an expert and will give you accurate information quickly.
- We are able to keep 90% of our cases at home. But if we tell you to go in to the Emergency Department, you really do need to go.
In 2015, the IPC managed about 50,000 exposure cases from home callers (the other 23,000 were from healthcare professionals). Of those 50,000, we were able to determine that about 45,000 of them could be watched at home with our help; they did not need to go to the hospital. Whenever the phone rings, we hope that it is one of those situations. We know that going to the Emergency Department sucks—it costs money, it costs time, it is stressful. However, in using all of our experience and knowledge, if we determine that it is not safe to stay at home, we will strongly recommend that the person is taken to the hospital. If we do, please follow our advice, we know what we’re talking about!
- Call the IPC first (before going to a hospital and before giving any home treatments).
If someone is having trouble breathing or unconscious, call 911 immediately. Otherwise, the first thing you should do after someone comes into contact with a potentially harmful substance is to call the IPC. As mentioned in number 2 above, there is a good chance that you won’t have to go to the hospital at all. And if you don’t have to go to the hospital, you shouldn’t—not only does it save you time, money and stress, but it leaves that ambulance and ER staff available to treat someone who really needs it.
Always call us before attempting to give any home remedies. Do not induce vomiting. Do not give/drink 6 glasses of milk. Or baking soda, raw eggs, burnt toast or anything else. Some of these items will do more harm than good, and the others are just unnecessary. You can reach a poison specialist in seconds and we will let you know what, if anything, you should do.
- Have the bottle of the product/substance and the person who was exposed handy—we will have questions about both.
To help us determine how serious (or not) your situation is, what symptoms might develop, whether you can stay at home or need to go to the hospital, and what treatments (if any) might be needed, we need some key pieces of information. We will have some basic questions regarding the person involved: age, weight, health conditions, medications they are on, and current symptoms. We will also need to know about the substance: the exact name, active ingredients, dose or concentration of those ingredients, and how much is missing. Sounds like a lot of information, but we can walk you through it very quickly. For more details about what we will ask when you call, take a look at this.
- However weird or embarrassing you think your question or situation is, we have already heard it before. You will not surprise us. We will not judge you and your call is confidential.
We really have heard it all, and no one should ever feel ashamed to call the IPC (for proof, check out this, this, and this). Our staff are professionals experienced in managing all manner of potential poisoning exposures.
Sometimes when parents call, they say, “I feel like I’m a bad parent because I turned my back for a second and my child ate poop/a pill/a bug/a plant/toilet water/laundry soap, etc”. NO. You are a good parent because you called the experts at the IPC right away to find out what to do. The IPC is called on 90 kids every single day who get into something they shouldn’t. That is the nature of child development and exploration.
If you haven’t already done so, save the poison center’s number into your phone right now: 1-800-222-1222. We hope you never need it, but if you do, we are here for you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Til next month,
- Calling the IPC? Here’s What You Can Expect…
- Answering the call in a public health emergency
- “Your Call Is Important To Us…”
- I had to call the Illinois Poison Center
- Why not call it like it is?