Every eight seconds, someone calls a poison center. These centers, located throughout the
"Children's Hospital supports us, and we handle patients of all ages. We're not here just for pediatric patients. Adults make mistakes, too," Slattery says. In 2009, the center received 45,997 calls, and 25,452 were exposures to a poison. "More than 57 percent of those calls involved a child under 6 years of age," Slattery adds. "That number is higher than the national average of 51.9 percent, and I think it's because most pediatricians in this area are familiar with Children's Hospital and know we are there. That makes parents here more aware as well."
The top 10 poisons, listed by call volume, in
- Cleaning substances
- Foreign bodies (e.g., batteries, magnets)
- Cough and cold medicines
- Cardiovascular medicines
"We have made a significant economic impact on public health by triaging patients over the phone and keeping exposures at home instead of them going to a health care facility," says Erica Liebelt, MD, medical director for the
Because these professionals are available around the clock, only seven of the more than 25,000 exposures called into the regional center last year resulted in fatalities, says Slattery. "None of those deaths were pediatric patients even though the majority of our exposures occur in children," she says. "The majority of fatalities are in the 25-45 age range. Adults typically are exposed to more deadly poisons and many are suicide attempts."
Slattery is proud of the fact that the
When a patient is "left at home," the center's staff does follow-up calls to check symptoms and to see how the patient is doing. "For the 25,000 plus calls we received last year, we did 44,000 follow-up calls. So not only do we receive calls, we follow each one up," Slattery says.
Every 90 seconds, a health care professional consults a poison control center, and Slattery says 20 percent of their calls last year came from physicians and their staffs. "Many call to verify information on a medicine box, for example. We also can tell a pharmacist how a particular drug has changed and how it will affect the body," she says.
Because of the educational and informational service they provide, poison centers have become an integral part of our communities, and the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) has begun a new awareness campaign at the request of the individual centers. "These centers have been around since 1953, but there are still people who do not know we are here," Slattery says.
Getting the word out will save lives and money. According to the AAPCC, poison centers are at least three times more cost effective than child safety seats, smoke detectors, and bicycle helmets. Poison control centers are as cost effective as childhood immunizations. Every dollar spent on a poison center saves about $7 in unnecessary health care expenses by eliminating physician office visits, hospital admissions, lab testing and ambulance runs.
"It is wonderful that we have this service available to the public here in the