Blue Ridge Poison Center: More Than a Hotline

March 23, 2016 by   |   Leave a Comment

More Than a Hotline!

Blue Ridge Poison Center Announces Poisoning Prevention Week; releases video to encourage programming the number into your phone: 1-800-222-1222.

Answering calls about possible poison exposures is what the University of Virginia Health System’s Blue Ridge Poison Center is best known for. But it’s only part of their work to protect Virginians’ health and save money. The center estimates it saves millions in healthcare spending each year by helping Virginians treat poison exposures at home instead of visiting an emergency room.

In addition to operating the center’s 24-hour, toll-free hotline – which received more than 24,000 confidential calls last year – staff members also serve as detectives, researchers and educators. As the center commemorates National Poison Prevention Week March 20-26, 2016, here’s a look at some of the other roles it plays:

  • Tracking substance abuse and poisoning trends: Working with a national network of poison centers, the center’s staff helps monitor which drugs are being abused, including new synthetic drugs like “bath salts,” as well as trends in accidental poisonings. The center is able to instantly share this information with healthcare providers, law enforcement and public health officials as necessary, though individual cases remain confidential.
  • Researching Virginia-specific poisons and demographics: “One benefit of having a regionally based poison center is the ability to focus on poisons and poisoning trends unique to Virginia.” says medical toxicologist Christopher Holstege, MD, the center’s medical director. For example, the UVaHS BRPC is researching such issues as new treatments for bites from venomous Virginia snakes, toxicity associated with Virginia plants, and poisoning trends unique to its region.
  • Helping prevent poisonings: The center’s public educator–Kristin Wenger – provides free materials, designs programs for all ages, and even produces a newsletter with tips on preventing poisonings. Check out for more information.

Access to the center’s certified poison experts is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 800.222.1222.

If a poisoning is suspected, such as:

  • Someone took too much medicine or the wrong medicine,
  • Someone swallowed something they shouldn’t have swallowed,
  • Someone spilled or sprayed a product on their skin or in their eyes,
  • Someone breathed a poisonous gas or fume,

call the poison center right away, even if there are no symptoms. The experts will tell you exactly what to look for and what to do. “It can be a challenge to remember the number, particularly in an emergency,” says Kristin Wenger. “We suggest you program the number into your phone. Our video explains why you might need the number in a hurry.”

On Monday, March 21, 2016, Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer proclaimed “Poison Prevention Week” during the Charlottesville City Council meeting. And The White House released President Obama’s proclamation for National Poisoning Prevention Week on 3/18/16:



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