Poison Centers are your lifeline in an emergency

Poison Centers are your lifeline in an emergency
Millions of people use the services of a poison center when faced with a poisoning emergency.

Set up to provide expert advice and information to healthcare professionals and the public, the 55 poison centers around the country, are available 24 hours a day, all-year-round. Specially trained nurses, pharmacists, and doctors offer a free and confidential service that includes interpretation services in 161 languages, emergency advice, as well as, the provision of educational materials on poison prevention and treatment.

According to data collected between 1980 and 2008, poisoning is the leading cause of injury-related death in the US. Coming into contact with a dangerous or potentially dangerous substance is called an ‘exposure’ and in 2014, there were about 2.2 million exposures and a call to a poison center every 11 seconds, Almost half of these exposures involved children under the age of 6, though the more serious cases occurred among adolescents and adults.

More than 75 percent of recorded exposures are unintentional and according to the 2015 annual report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC). The top 5 substances that affected adults were analgesics, household cleaning substances, cosmetics/personal care products, sedatives/antipsychotics, and antidepressants. Cosmetics, household cleaners, analgesics and foreign bodies/ toys were among the substances that affected children. Most exposures involve ingesting something harmful but also include inhalation and contact with the skin and eyes. People also call the poison center in the event of insect bites and carbon monoxide poisoning.

One of the roles of poison centers, which are partly financed by congressionally mandated federal funds, is to collect real-time data to help detect possible public health emergencies.

Recent studies have seen a rise in the annual rate of calls to poison centers related to cannabis exposure and an increased risk of unintentional cannabis ingestion and overdose by children. Data collected between 2000 and 2013, show that rates of cannabis exposures in children under the age of 6 in states where medical cannabis was legalized before the year 2000 were more than 2.82 times higher than in those where the drug remained illegal in 2013.