What would you do if your child accidentally swallowed a substance they shouldn’t have? You read the label and all you see is a symbol that indicates it is poisonous. You enter crisis mode. You freeze. What do you do? Or perhaps you started using a new cleaning product, some gets on your skin, and you break out into hives. What should you do? You should call Poison Control, a seemingly invisible network of individuals designed to help you.
Years ago, poisons that only used to be in nature started entering every store and home in the country in the form of household cleaners. Some cleaners are poisonous on their own, but some only become poisonous when mixed with another chemical. That makes poisoning an issue not only with children, but adults as well. Kids are curious and see colorful things that they want to try; sometimes adults accidentally mix chemicals they shouldn’t, they take too much of something, or they try out products they shouldn’t have and their bodies react poorly.
Upon calling Poison Control, you’ll speak to a poison specialist. Each individual usually specializes in a specific type of poison, from mushrooms to snakes. Specialists have a background in medicine and toxicology, with the ability to maintain their composure under pressure. They’ll ask what you (or your loved one) ingested, what brand it is, and how much was ingested. They’ll ask the weight of the individual and determine from there if a harmful amount was ingested. Poison specialists will continue to ask a series of questions—including what your symptoms are—until they determine if you’re okay, if you’ve been poisoned, and if so, what the next steps are. Essentially, they collect data, tell you what they think will happen, and will tell you whether you are fine or you should head to the hospital.
Calling Poison Control should always be your first step. Even hospitals themselves are known to call Poison Control in certain cases. You may be freaking out about your child ingesting something that turns out to not be toxic to them, and they may just end up with a bit of a tummy ache. Imagine if you’d called an ambulance instead, and your child gets rushed to the hospital only to be told that nothing is wrong. Calls to Poison Control are confidential, and the medical experts are there to guide you and keep you calm. Be sure to memorize the Poison Control Centers number: 1-800-222-1222.