By TESSA ROY
Poisoning emergencies can be serious, and time is of the essence when it comes to seeking treatment. Many homes take precautions in hopes of preventing an emergency. We store dangerous chemicals away from food products, we follow the safety instructions on the containers, we childproof the cabinets chemicals are stored in, but still every year poison control receives almost 2 million calls from people seeking advice in a poisoning emergency. As the parent of any toddler will tell you, kids are excellent about getting past childproof locks and it only takes a second for things to turn dangerous. What should you do if you round the corner and find your child has gotten into chemicals or household cleaners? Or if you have been exposed to a chemical? The Poison Control Center is here to help. You can call 1-800-222-1222 or even visit their website at www.webpoisoncontrol.org and someone will be there to answer your questions and provide advice.
You should have some critical information ready for the agent you’re speaking to. They will need to know the age of the patient and the presence of any symptoms especially if the patient is unconscious or having trouble breathing. You’ll also need to know the weight of the patient as well as the patient’s health history and any preexisting conditions they may have. They will need to know the exact product that the patient was exposed to, the size of the container, and the strength of the product. Other important information to convey is when the exposure occurred and how long it lasted for, the amount of product involved in the exposure, and finally your name, phone number, zip code, and how you are related to the patient. It can be a good idea to give your phone number right at the start of the call just in case the call gets disconnected, that way the agent will have a way to contact you.
When it comes to poisoning emergencies specific information is critical to getting accurate advice. If you guess the patient’s weight incorrectly, name the wrong product, guess the wrong amount that the patient was exposed to, or give an incorrect exposure time then the center may inadvertently give you inaccurate information. Poisoning emergencies are not a time for guessing. If you don’t know the exact information the agent is looking for let them know that so that they can err on the side of caution. In the event they have you call 911 or go to the hospital or urgent care clinic it can be a good idea to bring the container of the product the patient was exposed to for the caregivers to see, but only do so if the product can be brought along safely. For example, bringing the container of laundry detergent could be done safely, where as it would be dangerous to bring along a container of pesticides. If you can’t bring the container but you are able to safely photograph it that is another option.
In the past some doctors used to tell parents to keep syrup of ipecac on hand at home just in case of a poisoning emergency, or to induce vomiting in some other way. It is not a good idea to induce vomiting unless you are specifically instructed to do so by poison control. There are times when inducing vomiting can actually put the patient in even more danger, and recent studies show that vomiting does very little to relieve a poisoning emergency. If you don’t already have the Poison Control Center number programed into your phone now would be a good time to do so as you don’t want to hunt down the number in the middle of an emergency. As always if you’re interested in joining Essex Rescue please contact Colleen Nesto at 847-4859 ext 4.