Should I call 911 or the Poison Control Center?

To call 911 or the Poison Control Center, that is the question!

Well, the answer to that question, whether to call 911 or the Poison Control Center, depends on the emergency. Hopefully this page will help you in your decision-making.

General Medical Emergencies

In case of any medical emergency, from sudden illnesses to severe injuries, do not delay. Call 911 immediately! Tell the dispatcher why you’re calling. Say that it’s a “medical emergency.” Tell them a little bit about the reason you’re calling (the person appears to be unconscious, choking, severely burned, suffering from an allergic reaction, etc.).

If you’re instructing someone else to call 911 for you, say something like this: “Call 911, this person is unconscious (or whatever you know about the victim). Come back after you make the call. Bring me the first aid kit and the AED (automated external defibrillator).” If you don’t tell them what to do, you can’t expect that they’ll automatically know what to do. So use your words. Be direct and be clear!

Poisoning Emergencies

If you think that someone has been poisoned (whether that person swallowed a poison, inhaled a poison or got a poison on his or her skin) — and that person is still conscious — call the Poison Control Center at 1 (800) 222-1222. Like 911, it is a national number, but it is answered locally to wherever you are. Rather than depending on first aid instructions found on the container label (which may or may not be up-to-date), call Poison Control instead.

If, however, the person is unconscious, or you can’t remember the number to the Poison Control Center, call 911.