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Knowing What’s A Poison And Who To Call Can Save A Life

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FOR RELEASE: March 12, 2021

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – During Poison Prevention Month this March, the Upstate New York Poison Center encourages you to take five minutes and refresh your memory on what exactly is a poison and memorize the number to call if a poisoning happens to you or a loved one.

“Save our number to your cell phone now: 1-800-222-1222, because not all poisonings look the same. A snake bite can be poisonous and something our staff is trained to handle. Taking too much of your prescribed medication, is considered a poisoning. Touching poison ivy, is considered a poisoning,” said Christine Stork, Pharm.D., DABAT, clinical director of the Upstate New York Poison Center, ”Don’t waste time searching online for an answer, call the poison experts. We are always fast, free, and anonymous.”

During the pandemic, our poison center nurses and pharmacists who take your call, have heard frightening details from you at home on dangerous behaviors with potentially poisonous substances. Our staff answered more calls this past year for adult strength acetaminophen and ibuprofen, bleach, hand sanitizers, and melatonin. In 2020, we also helped keep 29,000 people out of a hospital, avoiding a potential $67 million in health care spending.

We have released a new video here to explain just some of the items you might encounter that can be poisonous and how we can help. All month long and during National Poison Prevention Week, March 21st – 27th, follow us on Facebook and Twitter. We want residents in our 54-county footprint and all healthcare providers to know our availability because “when life happens… we have answers!”


  • Store medicines and household products locked up, where children cannot see or reach them
  • Use child-resistant packaging and remember — nothing is child-proof
  • Read the label and follow the directions on medicines and products
  • Take your medicines where children can’t watch
  • Poisons can look like food or drink. Teach children to ask an adult before eating or drinking anything

What to Expect When You Call Our Poison Center?

After careful listening, the Poison Specialist will generally tell you one of the following:

  • This is not a problem, there is no need for medical care
    (e.g., A child ate some silica gel crystals found in a shoe box)

  • The history you provided requires the patient be observed for a period of time to be sure s/he will be okay (The Certified Specialist in Poison Information will call back to check on the patient and no medical care is expected)

  • Based on history provided, a trip to a physician or health care facility is necessary
    (The Certified Specialist in Poison information can arrange for an emergency transport if caller agrees)

How Do We Help?

We are here 365 days a year, 24/7. Our 17 Certified Specialists in Poison Information are ready to help in any poison emergency or with a medication question.

Each year our center manages more than 50,000 calls from health care providers, 911 operators, hospitals, industry, schools, and the general public in our 54-county service area. Of these calls:

  • 83% are for exposures
  • 35% involve children under age 5
  • 17% are for information only
  • 91% can be managed at home and do not require a visit to a doctor and/or a hospital

In the case of a poisoning or for information purposes, call the Upstate New York Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222. We are open 24/7, 365 days a year. Each year our center manages more than 50,000 calls from health care providers, 911 operators, hospitals, industry, schools, and the general public in our 54-county service area.

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About Upstate New York Poison Center

Housed inside Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY, the Upstate New York Poison Center is dedicated to reducing the number, cost and severity of poisonings within its designated 54-county service area as mandated by New York State Law. The Center is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to both health professionals and the general public at 1-800-222-1222.

About Upstate Medical University

SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY, is the only academic medical center in Central New York. It is also the region's largest employer with 9,460 employees. Affiliated with the State University of New York, Upstate's mission is to improve the health of the community through education, biomedical research and health care.