The Illinois Poison Control Center Shows Us Why Poison Control Centers are Important

Via GeekDad, I just discovered the blog of the Illinois Poison Control Center. More specifically, I discovered the "Day in the Life of a Poison Center" feature they did last month. As medical blogging goes, this was brilliant. They posted very brief descriptions of each of the calls that came into their center in a 24 hour period. The Tweetable little descriptions capture the stress, fear, and humor that is an integral part of providing emergency health care.

Some of the calls were scary to read, even in two-sentence bursts. These were ones that contained the phrase "child got into" - or words to that effect. It's easy to forget just how much poison every home contains, and just how easy it is for even the most well-attended toddler to eat some of it when a parent turns away for just a second.

These are the calls that make me glad we've got poison control centers.

Unfortunately, the budget crunch that is facing governments all over the country is hurting the Illinois Poison Center. They've lost a million dollars of their State funding - 25% of their total budget - and are slated to lose more next year.

Fortunately, there's something you can do to help them out a little bit. They've been pledged a $1 contribution for everyone who becomes a facebook fan of theirs in the month of March.

If you want a little encouragement to click the link, I'm excerpting a few of the calls that came in to their hotline below the fold. I'm steering away from the more serious and tragic of the calls, and focusing on some that I found memorable for other reasons.

Caller has one squirt bottle with bleach/water to disinfect her kitchen, and another with just water that she uses to spray the dog. She was going to spray the dog, but had mixed up the two bottles. She wanted to make sure she didn't spray her dog with bleach, so she had squirted some in her mouth to check. It was the bleach.

A farmer presented to the emergency room after inadvertently sticking himself with a syringe containing a pig vaccine.

An adult caller was using a Brillo pad to clean a stain on his underwear. As a result of vigorously scrubbing, some of the Brillo cleanser flew into his eye.

A caller ate a sandwich with lunchmeat and only after eating it, realized the meat expired 7 months ago.

An adult male has a car for sale; he decided to siphon out some gas to save money and swallowed a mouthful.

An adult female patient presented to the emergency room with severely blistered hands. The patient recently purchased some 'all natural' household cleaner, and she assumed since all the ingredients were all-natural it would be safe to use to disinfect her hands. The product's ingredients, while perfectly natural, were caustic and caused chemical burns.

A 5 year old accidentally super glued his finger in his nose.

A mother called because her 18 year old son was dared to drink a bottle of hot sauce. He developed significant vomiting and diarrhea.

An adult was camping and used newspaper in lieu of toilet paper; called to see if newsprint is toxic rectally.

A woman called because her whole family was inadvertently served pine sol. While making brownies, she reached into the cabinet to get vegetable oil and instead grabbed the pine sol because the bottles look so similar. She made the brownies and served them for dessert, and did not realize her error until tasting them.

A 40 year old female chopped up some habanero peppers for a salsa recipe. Despite repeated washing with soap and water, her fingers were still burning. She asked what she could do to relieve the burning.

A 24 year old woman called about her boyfriend. The woman had a Brazilian wax at a salon where they had used a numbing cream on the area and now her boyfriend is complaining numb lips, mouth and tongue. He was concerned that he may have ingested some of this numbing cream.

A 68 year old man accidentally used capsaicin cream instead of hemorrhoid cream.

An ER called requesting treatment advice regarding a 26 year old intoxicated male who was bit by his pet rattlesnake on the neck. He was showing off the snake to his friends at a party and had placed it around his neck.

A 24 year old male called with concerns on how much cough syrup he had taken. He bought a 4 ounce bottle and had a 'swig' every few hours due to intractable coughing. He has ingested the entire 4 ounce bottle during the past 12 hours and now feels 'woozy'.

A woman called because she had reached into her bathroom cabinet in the dark for a tube of personal lubricant and accidentally used toothpaste instead.

A 38 year old woman got out of the shower and did not have her glasses on. She reached for her aerosol spray deodorant but instead used Scrubbing Bubbles.

That's one day, and it's just the weirder stuff.

On the more serious side, in that same day the poison control center handled, if my rough count is correct, over 100 "my toddler got into the" type calls, where the "the" in question ranged from the completely harmless (swallowed whole bottle of homeopathic remedy) to the potentially tragic (rat poison). They also gave advice to quite a few other medical professionals who were dealing with intentional or accidental medication overdoses, intentional or accidental ingestions of potentially toxic chemicals, and the odd exposure to nature (spiders, fieldmice, and unknown mushrooms and berries).

Cutting funding for Poison Control Centers is no different than cutting funding for any other emergency medical response. In the long run, it probably winds up costing more than it saves - both in terms of money and lives.

If you didn't yet, please head over to facebook and support them. You can find other ways that you can help on their website, too.


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...It just doesn't like me. Il poison center, Illinois poison, poison center, Illinois poison, get me nada.

I can find Oklahoma for some reason, but no Illinois. I can also find a group for the Illinois control centre, but no page for them.

Also, searching through that stuff was sad a)because there were a bunch of groups trying to save a bunch of poison control centres and b)because Facebook's search function is not very good. I can get to, but following the link back to facebook from there just dumps me back at my facebook page.

Link to centre facebook page does not work for me.

Also fails from their homepage...

Anyone else having this problem? It's still working for me, and I can't see anything obviously wrong in the code for this post.

Might be a location thing - it redirects me back to my facebook page instead of to the illinois one.

You should still be able to get to it (I hope) if you try punching "IL poison center" into the facebook search box. And thanks for being so persistent.

you can also just go to

By (not verified) on 17 Mar 2010 #permalink

Nah, it just doesn't like me. Something wrong with my set up, perhaps, or location (I ain't in the states) or something. I blame weather balloons. redirects to

...and I had a much longer post before these two, but I put too many links in so it's stuck in moderation.

I can't get the page from IL Poison Control facebook to come up either. I am at a library computer, so I can't adjust anything here. I am without a computer otherwise so I have no idea why it won't work. But it won't. I tried several times.

By Casey Pastine (not verified) on 19 Mar 2010 #permalink

Well at least their main site works.