San Antonio (Nov. 18, 2003) As the holidays approach, the South Texas Poison Center at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSC) stands ready to help when the unexpected occurs.
The Poison Center’s toll-free number is 1-800-222-1222. Specialists in poison information, with a medical toxicologist as backup, are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to respond to poisoning emergencies. “The South Texas Poison Center is part of a network of six poison centers statewide that are linked by computer to ensure the shortest time possible before each call is answered,” said Miguel C. Fernández, M.D., associate professor of surgery at the UTHSC and medical director of the Poison Center. “Our service is free, confidential and non-judgmental. Our specialists can answer questions in English, Spanish or any language available through the AT&T language line, and we have TDD capability for the hearing impaired. We can assist both the general public and health professionals. We want more people to be aware of the services we offer so that more Texans, especially our children, are protected.”
The Poison Center was established at the UTHSC in 1995 and is supported by a state surcharge on long-distance telephone calls. “The Center is a vital public service,” Dr. Fernandez said. “Education about poisons must begin early in childhood. From its inception, the Poison Center has coordinated annual poster contests to teach South Texas schoolchildren about the effects and dangers of poisons.” For example, children learn that medicines are not candy and that poisons can be solids, liquids or gasses.
The 1-800 phone line is for emergencies only. Anyone who has non-emergency questions or would like a school or club presentation about the Poison Center is invited to call Deborah Van Damme, South Texas Poison Center community education specialist, at (210) 567-5762.
The Poison Center Web site is www.uthscsa.edu/surgery/poisoncenter/. The mission of the South Texas Poison Center is to reduce the incidence, severity and cost of poisonings and the unnecessary utilization of scarce medical resources.