How to seek help

In the U.S., there are two ways to get help for a poison emergency. You can either:

  1. Use the  tool to get specific guidance for your case, based on age, substance and amount, or
  2. Call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.

Both options are free and confidential. Both options give you expert answers.

When should I use the  tool?

If you took too much of a medicine, swallowed something that might be poisonous, splashed a product on your eye or skin, or inhaled fumes,  can help you decide if it's safe to stay home, or if a call to Poison Control or visit to an emergency room are required. Use the  tool if the exposed person meets all these criteria:

  • No serious symptoms. If the individual collapses, has a seizure, has trouble breathing or can’t be awakened, call 911 right away.
  • Drugs or medicines (including both over-the counter and prescription meds), household products, flowers,or berries. If the situation involves a bite or sting, mushroom, coin, or food poisoning, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 instead of using this tool. But we're adding features daily, so check back the next time you need Poison Control help.
  • Single substance (only one product) invovled. The drug or product can have multiple ingredients, but  can't handle multiple drugs until we develop the logic for interactions and additive effects.
  • Taken once. This tool is designed for one-time poison exposures that occur over a short period of time (minutes to a few hours). If you are on a medication therapeutically or if you were exposed chronically or repeatedly, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 for assistance.
  • Unintentional. No self-harm or suicide attempts. When self-harm is involved, immediate evaluation by a healthcare provider, usually in an ER, is always advised.  
  • Age 6 months to 79 years. Special issues arise in the very young or in older adults.
  • Not pregnant! We haven't addressed risks to the fetus or the pregnant mom.
  • Otherwise healthy. If you have a serious pre-existing medical condition, don't use this tool. Call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 instead to make sure there are no special considerations for your disease.
  • Human. Don't use this tool for your pets! Toxicity differs between species.

In August 2016, The American Journal of Emergency Medicine published an article titled "webPOISONCONTROL: can poison control be automated?" The article analyzed the first 9,256 webPOISONCONTROL cases. The study found the app is safe, quick and easy to use. 

When can't I use the  tool?

Don't use this tool if you (or the exposed person) are:

  • Younger than 6 months or older than 79 years
  • Pregnant
  • Suicidal or intending self-harm
  • A pet
  • Multiple products are invovled
  • Swallowed a medication repeatedly over more than a few hours (for example, you take this medication regularly).

When should I call Poison Control instead of using the tool?

If this tool doesn't address your problem, or if you'd rather talk to a real person, don't hesitate to call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 for immediate and expert assistance (U.S. only). If you're already in a panic, there's no substitute for the calming voice of a specialist. So don't hesitate to pick up the phone and call Poison Control when you need help. A friendly expert is ready for your call, 24/7. And your call is free and confidential.

Remember: Poison Control center welcomes your call. Dial 1-800-222-1222.

Poison experts answer 24/7. Your call is free and confidential. There are 55 poison control centers in the U.S. Your call to 1-800-222-1222 will be routed to the correct poison control center based on your area code and exchange. Don't guess what you should do. Call!


Warning!

If the individual collapses, has a seizure, has trouble breathing or can't be awakened: Call 911 IMMEDIATELY.

Not in the US? Use local procedures to call Poison Control or summon an ambulance.

But before you contact Poison Control, whether by phone or online, there are some quick first aid measures that make a difference if accomplished within seconds to minutes of the poison exposure. Be familiar with these steps.

SWALLOWED Poisons

Drink a small amount of water or milk immediately, before getting Poison Control assistance, if:

  • The product swallowed is burning, irritating or caustic, AND
  • The person is conscious, not having convulsions, and able to swallow. 
in the EYE on the SKIN INHALED
It's important that you irrigate (rinse the exposed eyes) immediately. Every second matters and a delay could result in loss of sight. Remove contact lenses. Use lots of room temperature water and irrigate for at least 15 to 20 minutes.

Adults and older children may find it easier to hop in the shower. Wrap young children in a towel and let water from the faucet in the kitchen sink run over the eye - or slowly pour water from a pitcher. Let the water hit the bridge of the nose and gently run into the eyes rather than pouring the water directly into the eye. Important: Irrigate for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Encourage blinking.

After the 15 to 20 minute irrigation, let the eye rest while you call Poison Control for additional guidance. If irritation, pain, visual problems, redness, swelling, or tearing persist an hour after irrigation is started, you'll need an urgent ophthalmic exam. That means a trip to an urgicenter or emergency room right away, unless an eye doctor can see you immediately. If the symptoms are severe, don't wait an hour - go straight to an emergency room after irrigating.

After irrigating, use webPOISONCONTROL for specific recommendations online or call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 for guidance

It's important that you rinse the exposed skin immediately. Remove contaminated clothing first (that's clothing with a spill). Every second matters. Don't delay. Use lots of room temperature running water and rinse for at least 15 minutes. For large spills, adults and older children may find it easiest to hop in the shower. Mild hand soap can be used to remove material that sticks to the skin. Important: Rinse for at least 15 minutes.

After the 15 minute rinse, call Poison Control for additional guidance. If blistering, large or deep burns, pain, redness, or swelling worsen or persist, you will need to see a doctor right away. But first call the poison specialists at Poison Control to see whether a trip to an urgicenter or emergency room is urgent or necessary. If the symptoms are severe, go straight to an emergency room after rinsing. Don't wait.

After irrigating, use webPOISONCONTROL for specific recommendations online or call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 for guidance

It's important that you move to fresh air immediately. Stay away from all toxic fumes and gases. Thoroughly ventilate the involved area.

After moving to fresh air, use webPOISONCONTROL for specific recommendations online or call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 for guidance. 


Poisoned? Get Expert Help Online

Don’t guess what you should do. Get accurate answers prepared by poison control experts. This tool will guide you. It’s free. It’s confidential.

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Learn the Poison Prevention Jingles

Learn the Poison Help jingle in English or Spanish. Use these jingles to teach the Poison Control number: 1-800-222-1222. Available for download.

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