Advise Me

Should I Call Poison Control?

Children are inquisitive from birth, and no matter how hard you try, you can’t child-proof everything. Often, prescription and over-the-counter medications are stored in child-resistant packaging, not child-proof. Even given as little as a minute or two, most children will be able to open these packages or bottles without much difficulty. It is typical behavior for a child to explore their world by tasting, touching, smelling, and looking, but that inquisitive nature can also get them into trouble, especially when it comes to typical household dangers. We spoke with Bryan Kuhn, a clinical pharmacist and poison information specialist with Banner Poison & Drug Information Center, to learn more about when your child’s exposure to a household danger means calling Poison Control is the right decision.

According to Dr. Kuhn, Banner Poison Control gets more than 55,000 calls every year. Of those calls, the Health Resources & Services Administration reports more than 70% get the help they need over the phone without having to go to the doctor or the hospital. “We have a huge database of opened and closed cases,” said Dr. Kuhn, “and we regularly follow-up days, weeks, and even months later to make sure callers are still doing well.”

Dr. Kuhn explained that you should never hesitate to call Poison Control if you have concerns, especially if:

Dr. Kuhn also cautioned that, while it might feel easy to go online to get your questions answered, there’s no substitute for talking directly with a trained medical professional. “Instead of going online to self-diagnose, call Banner Poison Control to talk to a trained professional who can work you through what your child’s height and/or weight means for your specific situation,” explained Dr. Kuhn. “Poison Control can give you back an answer in real-time with decreased ambiguity and increased specificity.”

4 Reasons to Call Poison Control: (800) 222-1222

1. Swallowed Poisons: these include many common household dangers and account, as Dr. Kuhn explained, for most calls to poison control each year. Examples include everything from batteries to essential oils to a sibling’s medications.

If you’re worried your child swallowed something, call Banner Poison Control right away. The nurse or pharmacist there will help you determine if you need to bring your child to the emergency room or if you need to wait and see.

2. Skin-Contact with Poison: calls related to skin-contact with poisons can be anything to kids playing with a dead rodent or a cockroach trap to superglue on the skin, and they tend to fall to basic first aid, Dr. Kuhn explained.

If you’re wondering whether a bug bite or sting warrants a call to the pediatrician or you have any other concerns about a poison possibly coming in contact with your child’s skin, give Banner Poison Control a call. They can coach you on what symptoms to look out for and when you should bring your child for an in-person consult.

3. Inhaled Poisons: Dr. Kuhn explained that, on average, calls related to inhaled poisons in children tend to focus on the fumes from household cleaners, insecticides, herbicides, or another air-borne pathogen, but that they can also be related to potential medication overdoses.

When calling Banner Poison Control for an inhaled poison, Dr. Kuhn recommended calling from outdoors to ensure you aren’t inhaling the poison while on the phone. Typically, symptoms for inhaled poisons will show almost immediately which means Banner Poison Control should be able to help you determine the expected effects right away.

4. Eye-Contact with Poison: these tend to be exposures to household cleaners, insecticides, or herbicides for the most part, though Banner Poison Control also tends to get calls for things like super glue and glow stick liquid in the eyes. Calls also include accidentally using medicated ear drops in the eye or vice versa.

The first step to any eye-related call to Poison Control will be a 15-minute eye rinse, so don’t be surprised if the operator tells you to call back after your child has completed the rinse. If you don’t think your child will stand still for the rinse, Dr. Kuhn recommended holding them in the shower for 15-minutes or so while the water hits their forehead. Typically, when it comes to eyes, you will be looking for burns or scratches to the cornea and this can wait until after the eye-rinse has been completed.

To learn more about typical household poisons and how best to keep your child safe, visit

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