Frequently Asked Questions

What should I do if I think someone has been poisoned?

If you think someone has been poisoned or have a question about a poison, you should contact the Texas Poison Center Network by calling 1-800-222-1222 for immediate assistance. If the person is unconscious, having difficulty breathing or having a seizure, you should dial 9-1-1.

What if I don’t speak English?

For non-English speaking persons, the Texas Poison Center Network has a translation service available for assistance in more than 160 languages. Before speaking with one of our specialists in poison information, an automated message will ask caller to “Press 1” for English and “Press 2” for Spanish. For all other languages, the caller will be asked if he/she would like an interpreter at the beginning of call and may be placed on hold briefly to connect with an interpreter.

What if I am deaf or hard of hearing?

The Texas Poison Center Network complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing may access the service by calling the following number for TTY: 1-800-222-1222.

What should I expect when I call the poison center?

You will never hear a busy signal when calling the Texas Poison Center Network because of our unique call distribution features. A call to 1-800-222-1222 automatically forwards to the next available poison center if your regional poison center lines are busy. The next available agent could be across the state; however, callers will see no difference in response time. This system is particularly useful should an entire poison center have to temporarily close. In such instances, the other poison centers may manage calls for the closed poison center. For example, when Hurricane Ike caused the Southeast Texas Poison Center in Galveston to close down in September 2008, the other poison centers were able to handle calls originating from that poison center’s regional area.

  • Our specialists may ask for the following information before they are able to provide callers with recommended treatment information in the case of a poison emergency:
    • Name of caller
    • Zip Code
    • Phone Number
    • Name and age of poisoned person (depends on call)
    • Name of product (depends on call)
    • Amount of product missing or ingested
    • Dose or concentration of product
    • Past Medical History: Allergies/Medications

What is done with the information I give the poison center? Is my call reported to other agencies?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations in 45CFR parts 160 and 164 as published in the Federal Register classifies poison centers as health care providers, authorized to share protected patient information with providers of direct patient care such as a physician.

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has provided the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) with a grant of authority to conduct surveillance activities and to function as a public health authority. This allows covered entities to disclose protected health information on certain diseases, injuries, and conditions without the authorization of the individual for statistical and public health purposes. Examples include food poisoning cases, bioterrorist attack, or epidemics that may occur. The Texas Poison Center Network (TPCN) is a program performing public health functions for the State of Texas. As such we are exempt from HIPAA privacy regulations. For additional information please click on the link below.

HIPAA Privacy Rule and Public Health

Can I call 1-800-222-1222 for poison information, even though it is not an emergency?

Yes, our specialists are not only specially trained to handle poison emergencies but also to provide information that can help prevent a possible poisoning. For a list of complete services provided by the Texas Poison Center Network, please read the next question.

What services does the Texas Poison Center Network offer?

  • Drug Identification (primarily for health care providers and law enforcement agents)
  • Drug Information (adverse effects, calculations, generic/brand name, dosage, contraindications, drug-drug interactions, medication disposal, etc…)
  • Environmental Information (carbon monoxide, general questions about contamination of soil/air, lead, mercury, mercury thermometer cleanup, radiation, etc…)
  • Medical Information (general poison-related first aid, medical toxicology terminology, sunburn management recommendations, etc…)
  • Occupational Information (chemicals in the workplace, guidelines, MSDS interpretation, safety guidelines)
  • Poison Information (toxicology, cancer-related, food poisoning, food preparation/handling practices, pregnancy/breastfeeding exposure concerns, plant toxicity, safe use of household products)
  • Prevention/Safety Information (poison safety and prevention questions, educational presentations for the public and healthcare professionals, media consultations, educational materials, pharmaceutical disposal information, etc…)
  • Teratogenicity Information (questions related to exposure of medications, chemicals, or illnesses during pregnancy or post-partum while breastfeeding)

What is the difference between a poison and a toxin?

A ‘poison’ is anything that can harm someone if it is used in the wrong way, by the wrong person, or in the wrong amount. A ‘poisoning’ may occur by eating, drinking, smelling, touching, or getting a chemical in the eyes.

Poisons come in four forms:

  • solids (such as pain medicine pills or tablets),
  • liquids (such as household cleaners, including bleach),
  • sprays (such as spray cleaners) and
  • gases (such as carbon monoxide, or CO).1

A ‘toxin’ is something that is naturally occurring in a plant or venomous animal such as a snake, spider, or scorpion.

1 Bronstein AC, Spyker DA Cantilena LR, Green JL, Rumack BH, Giffin SL. 2008 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System (NPDS): 26th Annual Report. 2009. Clinical Toxicology (2009) 47, 911-1084.