Poison Control Centers: A Critical Component in Emergency Care for Poisoning

Emergency Care for PoisoningFirst aiders, EMTs and paramedics respond to thousands of cases of unintentional poisoning every year. Many children receive emergency care for poisoning. The network of poison control centers across the country plays a critical role in the effective management of poisoning.

Unintentional poisoning is caused by ingesting, breathing in, injecting, or excessive exposure to a harmful substance. Many cases of poisoning are unintentional and often involve children.

Emergency care for poisoning often presents unique problems for the first aider or EMT. First of all, signs and symptoms of poisoning can vary greatly. Some poisons may produce a predictable set of signs and symptoms after consuming the poison, while others may show symptoms very slowly. Harmful substances that act immediately tend to produce obvious signs right away, and the particular container is still available. On the other hand, substances that act slowly can cause signs and symptoms that mimic some medical conditions or emergencies.

Moreover, emergency care for poisoning keep changing as more research is done on poisoning. In fact, some information printed on labels of chemical container may not be up-to-date and require some apprising. Because of this constant change, it is almost impossible to print definitive charts and guides for poison control.

If someone has ingested a poison or you suspect poisoning, you should take immediate action right away. Call your provincial poison center by telephone and report the incident. The operator will need to take information from you and instruct you on what to do.However, if the victim is unconscious, not breathing or having seizure, call your local emergency phone number or 911.

A network of poison control centers across the country receives thousands of call every year. In some parts of the country, a local poison control center is available 24 hours a day. Every household should have the number of the center serving the area. Make sure the number is posted near the telephone for easy access.

Emergency care for poisoning starts with the reporting of the incident. To best help the poison control center staff, check and report any empty containers at the scene. Inform the center staff if the victim has vomited and describe the characteristic of the vomitus. If possible, ask the victim or bystanders about the substance ingested. An accurate description of the victim’s signs and symptoms can greatly help the operator decide on what needs to be done.

A lot of people think that poison control centers should be called only for cases of ingested poisons. But actually, these centers can assist you get proper emergency care for all types of poisoning.

Learning how to provide first aid for poisoning can help you respond properly in case of poisonings. Basic first aid training courses offered by Red Cross-accredited training partners include modules on the management of poisonings. Contact your local Red Cross chapter to check available schedule.