Learn how to protect yourself, children and pets from accidental poisoning

Call the American of Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) Poison Help Line at 1-800-222-1222 for free, confidential medical advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Following World War II, the medical community in Europe and the U.S. noticed a dramatic increase in suicides and childhood poisonings as a result of many new drugs and chemicals developed during the war that were now available to the public. The response to this situation varied by country, ranging from poison information services to developing special toxicology wards.

In the U.S., the first poison information center was established in Chicago in 1953. By 1958, the AAPCC was founded to promote cooperation and standardize procedures among the growing number of centers being created across the country. Today, 57 centers are currently in operation throughout the U.S.

By dialing 1-800-222-1222, you can reach the poison center that serves your community. The hotline is staffed by physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and poison information specialists who have received specialized training in toxicology. If dialing from a cell phone, depending on your service carrier, you may reach the center where you currently are located or the center in the home area of your cell phone. These centers will collaborate to assure that you get the information and medical care needed at your present location.

The AAPCC estimates that this phone service manages 72 percent of poison exposure, avoiding costly emergency room and doctor visits. They note that poison centers receive a total of 10,830 calls daily, totaling approximately 4 million calls a year. Of those calls, 2.4 million of those calls are related to actual poison exposure while the remainder are requests for information.

Poison centers offer expert treatment advice in the event of exposure to poisonous or hazardous substances including household products, medicines, pesticides, plants, bites, stings, food poisoning and fumes. They can also offer management advice to minimize risk from potentially poisonous or hazardous substances you may have in your home or workplace.

Poisoning is one of the most common childhood injuries as young children tend to eat, drink, touch and smell things without knowing whether it is safe or not to do so. Because of this, it's important to learn what substances are the most dangerous poisons for children. You may also want to review the list of the most common poisons for children and adults and observe the recommended poison prevention tips. Not only does the AAPCC work with the 57 poison centers across the country to track poisonings and their source, they also provide alerts to keep the public apprised of especially dangerous products that have recently been found to cause poisoning. One that may be of special interest to parents and care-givers of young children are the highly concentrated single-load laundry detergent packets. Parents of older youth may want to heed the warnings regarding recreational drugs including synthetic marijuana and bath salts. Even the popular energy drinks that adults enjoy may cause serious reactions in children and adolescents.

Disc or “button” batteries that power many common objects including hearing aids, watches, toys, and games can be a problem for all ages with U.S. poison centers reporting that annually 3,500 people swallow one of these small discs while others, primarily young children or the elderly, place one in their ear or nose. Learn what to do if a family member ingests one of these batteries and signs to watch for that may indicate one of these small batteries is lodged in an ear or nostril.

Michigan’s poison control center is affiliated with the Detroit Medical Center (DMC) Children’s Hospital of Michigan. As one of the largest and busiest poison control centers nationally, the Michigan Regional Poison Control Center offers an array of services in addition to the 24-hour hotline. They offer five video shorts on household hazardous materials and other practical resources for parents. . If you have pets, they may be as curious as young children and ingest products that can harm them. Learn what common household items and products are most dangerous to pets, and what to do if you suspect your pet has been poisoned.

If you will be travelling outside the U.S., you will find most countries have a poison control center similar to our system. Consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website for a directory.

For additional information about safely storing and using household products that may be hazardous, visit the Michigan State University Extension website for informative articles, links to related resources and contact information for your county Extension office.

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