February 28, 2018
Contact: Danny Chun
Educate Yourself with the IPC During Illinois Poison Prevention Month
Nation’s oldest poison center offers resources to prevent harmful exposures
This week, the Illinois Poison Center (IPC) kicks off Illinois Poison Prevention Month, which serves as a timely reminder of the substantial harm poisoning can cause to the young and old alike. The issue may not make headline news every day, but the danger to the public can’t be ignored: In Illinois, more people are hospitalized for poisoning than for injuries from firearms and motor vehicle collisions combined.
“Last year, the IPC managed nearly 77,000 cases regarding potentially harmful substances, and more than 40 percent of those involved children five years of age and under,” says Michael Wahl, M.D., medical director, IPC. “While children are one of the most at-risk populations for poisoning, it is crucial that we raise awareness among all ages.”
As part of its campaign to prevent exposures to potentially harmful substances, the IPC offers some important questions all Illinoisans should ask—and the answers that can help save lives.
What Substances Cause Poisoning?
“Poison” means more than chemicals in a laboratory. Everyday products—from medications and vitamins to plants and cosmetics—can cause an unexpected reaction and be toxic if used or ingested incorrectly.
Last year, the substances most frequently involved in IPC cases included:
Analgesics (painkillers): 11,207 cases;
Sedative hypnotics/antipsychotics: 7,282 cases;
Cleaning substances: 5,680 cases;
Cosmetics/personal care products: 5,191 cases;
Antidepressants: 5,076 cases;
Alcohols: 3,988 cases;
Antihistamines: 3,680 cases;
Cardiovascular drugs: 3,480 cases;
Foreign objects like button batteries and magnets: 2,741 cases; and
Anticonvulsants: 2,502 cases.
How Does the IPC Help Treat and Prevent Poisoning?
A call to the IPC’s toll-free, confidential helpline (800-222-1222) is the first line of defense when
someone suspects they or someone they know have been exposed to a potentially harmful
substance. By providing treatment advice over the phone, IPC experts manage 90 percent of
poison exposure calls from the public at the site of exposure, eliminating the need for a referral
to a healthcare facility. This prevented an estimated 30,000 emergency department visits in
The general public isn’t the only group that takes advantage of the IPC’s unique expertise. More
than one-third of the IPC’s exposure cases come from healthcare facilities around the state.
Emergency and admitting physicians and hospital staff depend on IPC recommendations when
treating complex poisoning cases. By working directly with the public and healthcare
organizations, the IPC saves the people of Illinois $60 million annually.
The IPC does more than save lives after an exposure to a potentially harmful substance has
occurred. Recognizing that education is a critical component in reducing—and preventing—the
damaging effects of poisoning in the state, Illinois Poison Prevention Month is among the IPC’s
most important initiatives. As proclaimed by Governor Bruce Rauner and Chicago Mayor Rahm
Emanuel, the project aims to spread information about poison prevention to families and
communities throughout March. Hundreds of complimentary public education events are
scheduled across the state.
How Can I Get Involved?
IPC staff and volunteers distribute educational information and promotional items to tens of
thousands of Illinoisans to give them the tools and strategies to create safer home, work and
learning environments, as well as raise awareness about the toll-free, confidential expert
helpline service for children and adults. In addition, the IPC will provide complimentary poison
prevention education and promotion materials to those who complete the IPC’s free online
Poison Prevention Education Course and order before March 16. Click here to get involved in
Illinois Poison Prevention Month.
All year round, the IPC encourages residents to take advantage of videos, activity sheets and
other educational materials available on the IPC website and the IPC blog. These include “My
Child Ate...,” an online library of potentially harmful substances often ingested by children. The
page is an informational resource as parents and caregivers increasingly turn to the internet to
search “my child ate...”
IPC experts are available to provide information and treatment advice 24 hours per day, 365
days per year, including holidays. If you suspect that you or someone you know has been
exposed to a potentially harmful substance, please call the IPC at 800-222-1222. The call is
confidential and free for the caller. To make sure the IPC’s experts are always within reach, text
"POISON" to 797979 to save the IPC’s contact information in your smartphone. For more
information, visit the IPC’s website: http://illinoispoisoncenter.org.
The Illinois Poison Center is a nonprofit health service that provides the people of Illinois with
comprehensive and trusted information and treatment advice on potentially harmful
substances via a toll-free, confidential 24-hour helpline staffed by specially trained physicians,
nurses and pharmacists. 2018 marks the 65th anniversary of the nation’s oldest poison center.
Click here to learn more about the Illinois Poison Center and its mission.