ANNAPOLIS – Mr. Yuk is changing his phone number.
The Maryland Poison Center’s mascot, and health care experts, now may be reached at 1-800-222-1222, a new national number being promoted by such centers all over the country.
When someone calls the number from anywhere nationwide, that person will be automatically routed to an in-state center, said Bruce Anderson, director of operations at the Maryland Poison Center. Then, just as they do now, the caller will get help from poison control experts, including pharmacists, nurses and even some doctors.
Center staff must receive poison-control training and become certified before they may work the hotline.
“The wonderful thing is you only have to know one number anywhere you go,” Anderson said.
The poison center’s toll-free hotline is operated day and night everyday and offers free and confidential information on how to respond to emergency poisoning situations, including animal bites.
If the caller needs to go to a hospital, center staff will relay treatment information to the appropriate facility.
The old number for the Maryland Poison Center will continue to operate “indefinitely,” said Anderson, however the new number will be highly promoted as a replacement.
Expect to see a nationwide information campaign to familiarize the public with the new number.
“Our goal over the next year is to make the new hotline as familiar to the public as 9-1-1 or 4-1-1,” Anderson said. “By making the number easier to remember and more accessible for everyone, the Maryland Poison Center will expand its user base and ultimately increase the number of people we can help.”
The Maryland Poison Center received about 60,000 calls last year. Approximately 36,000 of those calls were related to cases of exposure to toxic substances, according to Anderson. The rest of the calls were related to animal bites and exposure.
Of those phone calls, 75 percent of those who were exposed to some kind of poisonous substance were treated at the place where the phone call occurred through the help they received from center experts.