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Your Kid Ate What? Poison Control Hotline's Craziest Calls

Photograph by Twenty20

Despite having had our home professionally babyproofed, I've called the Illinois Poison Center more than once or twice for advice. Most of those calls happened back when I was a hypochondriac pregnant lady, or once we had our first child and I was a new, perennially worried mom.

Now that No. 2 has been here for a while, I'm more laid back and have only placed a few calls—one when I caught our older daughter snacking on Crest and another when a caretaker accidentally took our infant's temperature orally … using a rectal thermometer. Both times, IPC reassured me that everyone would survive. They were calm yet authoritative. That's why I have their number programmed into my phone, and I never feel badly about using it.

But I've always wondered, what types of calls do poison centers typically get?

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Poison Control hotlines not only save parents from needless worrying; they save money, too. The Illinois Poison Center (IPC) saved Illinois $50 million last year thanks to fewer 911 calls, doctor and ER visits, and reduced time spent in hospitals.

(According to their website, every $1 spent on poison control saves roughly $7 in unnecessary medical costs.)

I recently read an IPC blog titled "A Day in the Life of a Poison Center" and found it so eye-opening—specifically, the amount of child-related calls. Some examples of the calls they received on a single day between 11 a.m. and noon alone are:

-A 5-year-old accidentally super glued his finger in his nose.

-A 3-year-old child was playing with nail polish, and put it on her lips like lipstick.

-A 3-year-old child was found eating rat poison pellets. (They are a bright teal color) He told his mom, "Candy!"

-While crawling around at home, an 11-month-old got into the cat litter box.

-A 13-month-old was found sucking on a Clorox disinfecting wipe.

-A 2-year-old child bit into his older sibling's Strattera (an ADHD drug). Mom was able to remove half a pill from his mouth.

-A children's hospital ER called because a toddler got into grandma's pill box and there was one oxycodone tablet and two glipizide (diabetes medicine) tablets missing.

-A school nurse called because a 16-year-old high school student spilled sodium hydroxide onto her arm during a chemistry experiment.

I reached out to the IPC staff and they were kind enough to share their expert-vetted answers to some of their most frequently heard inquiries. Here are four things to be aware of. Read one—it may save you a trip to the ER and will hopefully alert you to some potential risks you didn't even know were lurking in your home.

1. "My child ate…"

Whether it's chapstick, a cigarette, deodorant, Desitin, glowstick juice, marker ink, Nicotine gum, poop or sunblock, your state poison control center is there for you.

2. "My child swallowed a battery/a magnet."

This is especially timely after the holidays, with new gifts in the house. Just look at the damage caused by inserting a button battery into a hot dog. This one calls for a trip to the ER.

3. 5 things you didn't think could be poisonous to children

Half of the calls received by the IPC involve kids under the age of 6. If you have nicotine, lamp oil, table salt and baking soda, muscle rubs like Bengay or mouthwash in the house, remember to keep them out of reach of children.

4. Why you need to be concerned about what's in your nanny's or babysitter's purse

Remove any medications, hairspray, cigarettes, mouthwash or other potentially harmful substances. Have your sitter read up on emergency and safety protocols, too.

And if you've ever grimaced as your toddler dropped a banana chunk on the floor of Target and then swiftly picked it up and popped it in her mouth (that would be me), take solace. Some of IPC's grossest calls include (brace yourself) a 2-year-old drinking some backwashed fluid from an enema bag, an 11-year-old drinking water out of a gas station toilet because of a dare, and a toddler found sucking on a used tampon pulled out of the trash can.

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No matter what state you live in, 1-800-222-1222 is the number to call. It will connect you with a poison control expert right away.

Unfortunately, the IPC is being impacted by the state budget impasses and its fate remains unknown. Support them by Liking them on Facebook, following them on Twitter, contacting your legislators (by clicking here) or donating.

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