Knowing who to call is the critical first step in helping someone in need of assistance. Growing up, we are all taught to call 911 in an emergency. But, what can we do if the situation is serious, but maybe not an emergency? The information below will help you make the right call.
Call 911 if the person…
- Is not awake and you can’t wake them
- Is not breathing or is having trouble breathing
- Has difficulty swallowing or is drooling
- Has swelling of their lips, tongue, or face
- Is having seizures
- Is having trouble talking or walking
These are all life-threatening situations. The right call is to 911, which will get trained medical help to the person right away.
Call the poison center if you or someone you are with…
- Makes a medicine mistake
- Makes a mistake with a personal care or household product
- Is bitten or stung by a critter
- Eats a berry, mushroom, or plant from the yard or woods
- Has questions about substance abuse
- Has questions about food poisoning
Poison centers are staffed by specially trained pharmacists and nurses. They are available any time, day or night, and can be reached by dialing 1-800-222-1222 from anywhere in the U.S. The poison specialist will help determine if the situation requires a visit to the hospital or can be managed safely at home. If it needs to be managed in a hospital, the specialist will help the caller determine if an ambulance is needed of if they can drive themselves. They will also call the hospital ahead of time to let them know you are coming and to give treatment advice. Poison centers work hand in hand with doctors and nurses to make sure poisonings and overdoses are managed in the best possible way.
Call your doctor if…
- You need information about why you are taking a specific medicine
- You want to know if you can stop taking a current medicine or if it is okay to start taking a new medicine
- You need treatment for a non-urgent medical issue, such as a cold or the flu
Call your pharmacy if you need information about…
- Generic substitutes for a medicine you are taking
- Drug interactions
- Special instructions for taking your medicine
- Taking an over-the-counter medicine, vitamin, or supplement along with your current medicines
Sometimes the right call is to the person who prescribed or dispensed the medicine. They know your medical history best. They will be able to answer questions about medicines as they apply to you in particular.
Hopefully, this information will help you make the right call when you need assistance. But, know that the only wrong call is the call you don’t make. You should never wait and see what happens or rely on information you find on the internet. Poison centers, 911, doctors, and pharmacists are there to help.