April 20, 2020: What Determines Which State Poison Center Receives Your Call?

The Poison Help hotline number for Poison Control, 1-800-222-1222, is a national number.  When you call that number, the call is routed based on the area code.  For example, if your area code is local to TN (i.e. 615,432, etc.) your call will be routed to the Tennessee Poison Center (TPC). However, if you move out of state and keep the same cell phone number, your call will be routed to the TPC when you call the 800 number.

The second reason you may get a different poison center is if the poison center is unavailable for maintenance, natural disaster, or unforeseen issues. During these times, there are protocols for nearby centers to assist in taking the calls until the poison center is functional again.


What Happens If You Get A Different Poison Center?


It depends. If a healthcare facility is calling, often the center will transfer the call to the correct state so that recommendations, documentation, and follow ups can be made according to that center’s clinical guidelines (they can differ between states). If it is a call from a home, the call may be managed and recorded at the out of state center unless follow up is needed or the question is specific to something native to the caller’s state (i.e. local insects, animals, plants, marine life, etc.). If an out of state caller is referred into the hospital or a patient is transferring from a hospital in one state to a hospital in another state, the poison centers will contact each other so that proper patient care can be continued. 


Prepared by Nathan Ngo, PharmD, CSPI- Certified Poison Specialist at the Tennessee Poison Center


I am interested in any questions you would like answered in the Question of the Week.  Please email me with any suggestion at donna.seger@vumc.org.


Donna Seger, MD

Executive Director

Tennessee Poison Center


Poison Help Hotline: 1-800-222-1222