When it comes to poisonings, every second counts. That's why it's always a good idea to keep the number to the poison control center handy. The poison centers are staffed by trained professionals who can provide immediate assistance and guidance in case of a potential poisoning. They are a valuable resource that can help prevent panic in the face of a stressful situation.
Poison control centers are staffed by health care professionals, including doctors, nurses and pharmacists, who have passed national certification exams. They are also local experts who know the community and are trusted by medical professionals and paramedics in the area. They can provide specific information to callers based on the type of poisoning they are concerned about, such as whether it is an insecticide or a pharmaceutical drug.
In addition to answering calls from the general public, poison control centers also answer calls from health care providers regarding exposures to substances other than chemicals. In this case, the callers are referred to medical toxicologists at the center. Poison centers can also assist in emergency preparedness by providing information and training for health care professionals and the community at large.
Poison control centers also participate in a national toxicosurveillance effort that provides information on possible public health events related to chemical releases, as well as local syndromic surveillance, which identifies patterns of illness among the local population, and reporting notifiable conditions involving multiple individuals to local and state health officials. See chapter 7 for more on the role of poison control centers in this regard.