Effectiveness of a poison center: Impact on medical facility visits

Nancy R. Kelly, Michael D. Ellis, Rebecca T. Kirkland, Susan E. Holmes, Claudia A. Kozinetz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


To estimate the effectiveness of a poison center by determining the number of potential medical facility visits for childhood poisonings which are prevented, and to determine how callers learned about the poison center in order to help guide future public educational efforts, a cross-sectional telephone survey was done. A systematic sample of caretakers of children <6- y-of-age living in Harris County, TX, and who called the poison center about a poisoning incident between February 1993 and January 1994, was taken. One hundred sixty-six/197 eligible caretakers (84%) completed the survey. Of the 166 caretakers, only 5 (3%) were referred by the poison center to a medical facility for treatment, although 6 (3.6%) actually sought medical attention. The remaining 160 (96.4%) were successfully managed at home. The majority of these (74%) required no intervention and the remaining 26% required only minimal treatment, including ipecac, dilution, irrigation or observation. Of the 160 caretakers managed at home, 69 (43%) would have sought medical attention for the child at a health care facility if the poison center did not exist, and of those 81% would have gone to an emergency center or hospital for evaluation. Callers learned about the poison center most often from family/friends, doctors, Mr Yuk stickers, television, previous use, or pharmacists. Poison centers decrease health care costs by preventing unnecessary medical facility visits for minor childhood poisonings which can be successfully managed at home. Methods effective in educating the public about poison centers should be continued and other methods explored to increase poison centers' use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-48
Number of pages5
JournalVeterinary and Human Toxicology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • veterinary(all)
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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