Anyone facing a poison emergency can now get help by calling a toll-free hot line that links callers from anywhere in the country to medical experts at local poison control centers.
The number - 1-800-222-1222 - is funded by the government and quietly went active late last year, said Rose Ann Soloway, associate director of the American Association of Poison Control Centers, a private group that coordinates local poison control efforts. The group is launching a campaign Wednesday to inform the public about the free, 24-hour hot line.
"For the first time, people only need to remember one number no matter where they are - at home, at work, traveling or visiting," Soloway said. She said that calls to the number will be routed to the closest poison control center based on a caller's area code.
Existing local or statewide phone numbers for poison control centers will continue to work, she said.
Poison experts at the nation's 65 local centers can help in emergencies and answer questions about medicines, insect bites, household products and other potentially dangerous substances. The centers handle more than 6,000 calls each day and more than 2 million poison exposures were reported in 2000.
More than three-quarters of poison exposures can be treated over the phone with help from poison experts, according to the poison control association. The experts can call an ambulance in an emergency.
The hot line is funded under legislation passed in 2000 that seeks to give all U.S. residents access to a poison control center.
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