Poison control centers: immediate answers in case of poisoning or poisoning
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Poison control centers: immediate answers in case of poisoning or poisoning

The poison control center is a health facility that ensures immediate responses in the event of poisoning or poisoning.


What is poison?

“Omnia venenum sunt: ​​nec sine veneno quicquam existit. Dosis sola facit, ut venenum non fit. “(Everything is a poison, there is no such thing that isn’t. Only the dose of a substance causes it not to become a poison) Paracelsus

A poison is a substance that produces damage to our body, in the doses in which it is taken. Each substance can be considered a poison! Have you ever thought that even the most apparently harmless substances, like water for example, if taken in excessive doses, can be harmful? It is true, this can actually give rise to water intoxication which can even be fatal in the most serious cases.

It is no coincidence that the Greek word “FARMAKON”, from which the word “drug” comes from, means POISON because every substance can be good or bad for our body based on the concentration and the dose with which it is taken.

Poison control centers

Progress has brought us so much well-being but also an increased number of special chemical substances that are potentially dangerous. In order to file and collect data and information regarding all potentially dangerous substances capable of producing intoxication in 1967, the first poison control center in Italy was established at the Niguarda hospital in Milan.



The poison control center was born with the aim of helping the diagnosis and suggest the best medical therapy for cases of acute intoxication of any kind. It intervenes directly giving information by telephone to Hospitals, pharmacies and the general population.

Main activities

Currently the main poison control center in Italy, which is based in Milan, receives about 170 requests for intervention a day, both from private citizens and from hospital doctors. The poison control center is in fact the maximum source of experience against poisoning at a national level. Simultaneously with the telephone response activity to urgent requests, the center also carries out training activities in matters within its competence relation to healthcare personnel.


In the anti-poison center there are anesthesiologists-resuscitators, clinical pharmacologists, biologists with specialization in toxicology, as well as administrative and auxiliary personnel. It is active 24 hours a day, so the staff is present in turn to ensure continuity of service.


What happens when you call the poison control center?

Anytime a private citizen or a hospital doctor needs information or therapeutic advice, they can contact the number of the poison control center immediately and the center communicates with a health professional who can give immediate advice. To do this it is necessary for the user to provide the data needed to give the most appropriate therapeutic suggestion to the case. In particular, the following will be required:


  • surname and name of the intoxicated (for reasons of cataloging and data recovery)
  • city ​​from which the call originates
  • telephone number (to be contacted, especially if the line falls)
  • sex
  • age
  • body weight
  • place and circumstances of exposure to the specific substance
  • symptoms already manifested by the intoxicated person

Once the information collection is complete, the health worker of the poison control center will give precise directions regarding the actions to be taken, both for the private citizen and for the health personnel of a hospital.

For example,if a private citizen called for an event that just happened, based on the type of substance taken, the center will suggest whether to try to induce vomiting to expel an ingested substance; or in the case of contamination at skin level, etc., the center will suggest with which liquid to wash the body with.

If instead, a medical institution calls, the poison control center operator will give direction if there are specific antidotes for the substance and how they can be found. Above all, the center will inform as well about what problems and consequences the carers must expect immediately and within the continuation of the treatment.


Why do you need a poison control center? Are the staff not sufficiently trained in hospitals?

We would expect doctors in hospitals to be adequately prepared to treat us in every circumstance and for every possible problem. In reality this is a utopia because it is enough to think that the single illnesses are several thousand and to know them all is substantially impossible. For this reason, doctors know and are used to identifying the main problems.

Potentially dangerous substances on the other hand are so many and it is so rare for a hospital doctor to see in his career a patient intoxicated by a single specific substance that in most cases, as much as one may have a general knowledge about intoxications, it is not possible to have a specific experience among healthcare personnel: sometimes it happens that none of those present have ever seen into their life an intoxication from that specific substance!

For this reason there is a centralized system that collects the experience of everything that happens in our country and therefore accumulates sufficient experience even for rare cases. It is no wonder, therefore, that both the citizens and the doctors resort to information from the poison control center.

Personally, during the intensive therapy shifts, I had the opportunity to contact the poison control center in my area, that of Milan, more than once. Most often more for a therapeutic comparison because very rare cases never happened to me. But as you can imagine, it is one thing to read the relative information on a book, another is to deal with those who have already faced so many and many similar cases, even if only as a telephone advice.


What happens when you have a mushroom poisoning? How do we prevent it and how do we intervene? Let’s find out together!

We hope that you would never need to contact the center, but in any case we’ll give you their phone number:

Poison Control Center in Milan: +39 0266101029


Dott. Marco De Nardin

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