Adults ages 59 years and older accounted for 9.8% of all cases at the Maryland Poison Center in 2018. Over the past three years, this number has continued to grow. There is a common misconception that poison centers only take calls for children. Older adults remember calling the poison center about their children, but sometimes overlook the fact that they, too, may need to call about themselves. Although the number of cases is low compared to other age groups, older adults tend to suffer more serious effects from poisonings. So why should older adults call the poison center? Let’s do this David Letterman’s Top 10 style, starting with number ten…
10. You are taking care of your grandchildren
Many people associate the poison center with children. Yes, we do get many calls about children under the age of six. In fact, 39% of exposures in 2018 were about this age group. If your grandchild got into something poisonous while visiting or spending time with you, call the poison center for help. We manage 60% of cases at the site of where the exposure happened (e.g., at home, at school, or at the workplace.) This means you don’t need to rush the child to the emergency room. Call us first, so we can give you the right answer, right away.
9. You can’t recall if you took your medicine
It is important to call us if this happens to you. Some medicines can be harmful if you take a double dose, while others can be harmful if you skip a dose. Don’t guess, call the experts. Have a list of the medicines you take handy when you call. If you don’t have one, use our template that can be found here to create one. When you call the poison center, tell them what medicines you take, and they will decide which ones you can take again and which ones you should skip.
8. You find yourself brushing your teeth with…arthritis rub
How many of you sometimes forget to put your glasses on or turn on the light before brushing your teeth? This happens to people of all ages. Sometimes we are in a rush and think we are grabbing the toothpaste, but instead, we grab the tube of arthritis rub. The shape of the tubes and the color of the product are very similar. Another common mix-up includes eye drops and superglue. Ouch!
7. You take your spouse’s medicine by mistake
This is one of the more common calls we get. Oftentimes, couples have identical pill keepers. If you have pills sitting out on the counter, which we do not recommend, your spouse could take them accidentally because they think those are their medicines. We even get calls about people taking the dog’s medicine, and vice versa. Have no fear, we can help in all of these situations.
6. You can save time and money
We all know time and money are important. We can save you both by safely and effectively managing many poisonings and overdoses at home rather than at the hospital. We keep about 60% of our cases at home when we feel that we can safely manage them over the phone. If our specialists feel you need to be seen by a doctor or in the hospital, they will tell you.
5. Your call is confidential and free
How many things these days are actually free? When you call the poison center, we won’t ask for your credit card information. You don’t need to give us your insurance card, and you don’t have to qualify on any circumstances. Because we are funded by the state, you’ve already paid for our services by paying your taxes. Since you’ve already paid, why not use us? We are confidential — your call and information is private. We won’t call your kids or your doctor if you’ve made a medicine mistake. We won’t call government agencies, such as social services or immigration, either. The only people we will talk to are the doctors and nurses who will treat you if you have to go to the hospital. We are HIPAA compliant, and follow the same rules as your doctor.
4. Poison centers are always open
When your doctor and pharmacy aren’t open, our pharmacists and nurses are here to answer your call. There is someone here to help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Even if there’s a blizzard or hurricane, you can still reach a specialist on the other end of the phone.
3. You will speak with a trained pharmacist or nurse right away
Pharmacists and nurses are the only people who answer our phones. There are no robots or volunteers here. You will reach a real person; you won’t have to wait for a call back. When you call, you’ll hear a short recorded message that lets you know that you have reached the poison center and that your call will be recorded for quality purposes. You will then be immediately put through to a specially trained pharmacist or nurse. Combined, our staff has just under 300 years of experience working at the poison center. You truly are talking to the experts.
2. The staff are experts specially trained to manage poisonings and overdoses
What do we mean by specially trained? When we hire a new pharmacist or nurse, they do not get to answer the phones on their first day, or even during their first week. They start by listening to calls and studying various types of medicines, chemicals, and household products. They discuss these topics with experienced staff members. When they do start answering calls, they are under the guidance of our experienced specialists. It takes about three months before a specialist is ready to answer the phones full-time with no guidance. And, guess what? The learning doesn’t stop there. Our specialists have to pass a certification exam every seven years. Even doctors call us when they have questions about poisonings and overdoses. In fact, about 35% of our calls come from doctors, nurses, pharmacists, or paramedics. If doctors and other health care providers value our expertise, rest assured that you can trust us, too.
1. Poison centers won’t judge you; poisonings can happen to anyone
Our experts are professional, but they are also kind and understanding. They work at the poison center because they want to help people — people like you and your family. They will never laugh at you. They take their job seriously and truly want what is best for each person who calls. They believe that medicine mishaps and unintentional poisonings can happen to anyone.
Program our phone number into your mobile phone and place the number in a visible area in your home. Poisonings can happen to anyone, anytime, and anywhere. We are here to help, 24/7/365. Call 1-800-222-1222 for the right answer, right away.