When my children were small, I was sure I had done everything I could to keep them safe. I buckled them into their car seats. I cut food up into choke-proof sizes. Outlet plugs were covered. Medicines were locked up and away and out of sight. Detergents and cleaning products were out of reach. We thought we had taken all reasonable precautions, but one day I found myself frantically calling the Poison Help line.
Taking my sick child’s temperature one evening, I popped the thermometer under his tongue. Sick and cranky, he fidgeted, squirmed, whined and wiggled. In a fit of irritation, he bit down on the thermometer, breaking the glass and spilling mercury onto his bed. I scooped him up and placed him in a different room, trying not to panic, but thinking, surely, that my child had been poisoned and my home contaminated.
I was terrified.
A quick call to the Poison Help line connected me to a poison specialist at my local poison center who was able to put my mind at rest immediately. Everything was going to be OK. She reassured me that the amount of mercury in my thermometer was not enough to cause any serious poisoning, and she counseled me on how to dispose of it. What’s more, I never heard a single word of condemnation or judgment from the woman on the other end of the phone. There was just calm compassion and knowledgeable advice.
I will be forever grateful to the wonderful woman at the poison center. I never did know her name or anything else about her. Of the thousands of calls she’s taken, I’m sure she does not remember me. But I will always remember her.
There are many poisoning prevention superheroes in this world. The poison specialists answering the phones at the centers are just some of them.
According to the superheroes at America’s 57 poison centers, here are some ways to be a poisoning prevention superhero in your own community:
- Set aside a dedicated time to go through your garage and every room in your house. Make sure poisons are locked up high and out of sight. Have a friend help out; then reciprocate in your friend’s home.
- Teach your children to always ask an adult before eating, drinking or touching anything.
- Share poisoning prevention tips with friends, family and coworkers.
- Program your cell phone with the Poison Help number and post it by your home phone: 1-800-222-1222.
Share your stories with us! Tell us something you’ve done this week to be a poisoning prevention superhero!
– Contributed by Courtney Wilson, public education and national outreach manager, AAPCC
The American Association of Poison Control Centers supports the nation’s 57 poison centers in their efforts to prevent and treat poison exposures. Poison centers offer free, confidential, expert medical advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The hotline is staffed by specially trained medical experts – including doctors, nurses and pharmacists – who take calls in more than 150 languages and from the hearing impaired.
For questions about poison or if you think someone has been exposed to a poison, call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222 to reach your local poison center.