Frequently Asked Questions About Calling the Poison Center

Why do you ask all those questions?

Some callers might feel that asking all these questions is wasting crucial time. But only a careful evaluation of all the information will allow thc Poison Center staff to determine if a case presents a serious risk. No well-trained staff member will ever ask needless questions.

Once the inforniation is gathered, the Poison Center staff member will calculate the amount of the exposure compared to body weight or look up the substance in the computer for more information. This information will determine the toxicity of the case. Using that information, the staff person will make treatment recommendations. Each full-time staff person handles about 5,000 poisoning cases each year. They know, very quickly, if your case involves only a mild exposure or if it is potentially life threatening.

Why are all the calls recorded?

Like 9-1-1 calls, all calls to the Poison Center are recorded. Poison Center calls, like medical records, are kept confidential. Information regarding the call is entered into a computer datahase. This provides general information for national statistics regarding age and sex of the victim, name of product, treatment and the zip code where the call originated. Callbacks are made to determine the outcome. Outcome information is provided to agencies that regulate consumer safety issues. No personal or confidential patient information, such as your name or phone number, is ever provided to a national database.

What if I don’t want to give my name and phone number?

Helping callers is the main concern of the Poison Center staff. There are no “bad parent” or “frequent caller” lists. Unless you tell the Poison Center staff that you have called before, they won’t know, as there are about 300,000 poison calls per year to the California Poison Control System. However, there are callers who refuse to provide basic information such as names and phone numbers to the Poison Center staff. The Poison Center staff will suggest, to those callers, that they contact their physician for assistance. For legal reasons, medical or poison information advice cannot be provided to anonymous callers.


California Poison Control System
1-800-222-1222. . Anytime, Anyplace in California

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Disclaimer: This web site is designed to be informational and educational. Under no circumstance is this web site meant to replace the expert advice of a qualified poison specialist or physician. In the event of a poison emergency, call the nearest poison center immediately by dialing 1-800-222-1222 or contact 9-1-1 emergency services.