Nevada Poison Center hotline can save a trip to ER

Here’s a telephone number that could save your life, and it’s not 911.

A friend brought it to my attention and suggested it might help others as it helped her, by saving time and money.

The number to put in your cellphone or by your land line is 1-800-222-1222.

Now I’ll tell you why.

It’s the national number for poison control centers. In the local phone book, it’s described as Clark County Poison Control (the current name is the Nevada Poison Center) but it’s really a national hotline for 57 nonprofit independent poison centers, operating 24 hours a day.

My friend used it when a member of her household was stung by a scorpion in their Las Vegas home. One call saved her an expensive and unnecessary trip to the emergency room.

The scorpion in Judy Treichel’s Spring Valley house was on the ceiling of a bedroom. “If your neighbors spray and you don’t, I guess your house looks like a great place for the little varmints to move.”

When the one on the ceiling was spotted, a Kleenex was used to get it down, but it fell and it’s tail stinger did what tail stingers do — it stung.

Treichel wasn’t sure what to do. Some scorpions are more poisonous than others. Her first thought was to rush to the ER. “Then I remembered many years ago when my kids were young, that I had used a poison hotline.” She turned to the phone book and found Clark County Poison Control on the first page. She called.

The recording says if you are likely to die, call 911.

“Then you get a very helpful person who asks some questions about what happened and how you are right now so that she call tell you if you need to seek help immediately.”

The symptoms of numbness and tingling from the scorpion sting didn’t warrant the ER. The poison control expert also explained what could be expected the next day. “We didn’t have to spend much of the night at an ER or pay lots of money. She had also told us what more severe reactions could still take place and said there was an antitoxin if needed but to wait.”

All this was helpful, even comforting for Treichel, who praised it as a great free service. Everyone she told about it assumed she had rushed to the ER.

I quizzed one friend about the first thing he would do.

“Scream,” said the wag.

Two other friends said they would go to their doctor or the ER.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers (www.aapcc.org) reports that 70 percent of calls are handled by phone at home without someone needing to search out a doctor’s office or hospital. Another 20 percent of the calls are from health care facilities.

The calls involve everything from that scorpion to drugs to all the dangerous materials under your sinks.

“Half the calls are about children under 5,” said Dr. Allen Bronstein from the Rocky Mountain Poison & Drug Center, which operates centers in four states, including Nevada since 2007.

The Nevada Poison Center receives about 37,000 calls a year. About 16,000 of those calls involve people exposed to poisons, either accidentally or deliberately. A few hundred involve people calling about their pets, the rest are from people just seeking information.

Registered nurses handle the calls and medical toxicologists are available as well, Bronstein explained.

Nevada spends less than $62,000 a year to fund the line and another $300,000 comes from federal dollars.

But it’s estimated every $1 of public funding saves about $13.39 in unnecessary health care costs.

Prefer to go to an emergency room and wait? Feel free.

If not, the number is 1-800-222-1222.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0275.

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