Frequently Asked Questions

Visitors may benefit from reviewing the following responses to frequently asked questions about the Maryland Poison Center (MPC).

How do I reach the MPC?

Calling 1-800-222-1222 from anywhere in the United States will connect you directly to a local poison center. If you are calling from Maryland, with the exception of Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties, you will be connected to the MPC.

Is there a National Poison Center?

No, poison centers are local services. Currently, there are 55 local poison centers in the United States. Some states have more than one poison center. Other states do not have a poison center located in their state, but receive services from a local poison center with which their state contracts.

Is there a cost associated with calling the poison center?

No. Calls to the poison center are free.

How is the MPC funded?

The MPC is primarily supported through state higher education dollars, as well as federal grants and private contracts. It is part of the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. Funding for poison centers has decreased in recent years and when budget cuts are applied to higher education, they lead to a reduction in the MPC’s operating budget. Find out how you can make a donation to help the MPC continue its lifesaving work.

Who answers the phones at the MPC?

At the MPC, phones are answered by specially trained pharmacists and nurses 24 hours a day, every day of the year. These individuals are certified as specialists in poison information by the American Association of Poison Control Centers. The specialists at the MPC have more than 250 years of combined experience.

What kinds of calls do the specialists at the MPC handle?

People call the MPC for a variety of reasons. Our specialists regularly receive calls about:

  • Drugs and medicines (i.e., prescription, over-the-counter, vitamins, supplements, illegal, or veterinary)
  • Household, garden, and personal care products
  • Chemicals (at home at work)
  • Plants (i.e., mushrooms, berries, indoor and outdoor plants)
  • Bites and stings (i.e., insects, snakes, animals)
  • Gases and fumes
  • Food poisoning
  • Any items that give individuals an unwanted or unexpected reaction

Call the MPC at 1-800-222-1222 as soon as you suspect a poisoning or overdose.

Will specialists at the MPC answer non-emergency calls?

Poison specialists will answer non-emergency calls. These calls may address the safe use and storage of household products or whether a plant you received as a gift is poisonous. If there is a poison emergency call on another line, the specialist will handle that call first, but will come back to answer your question. Calling for information may prevent a poisoning in the future.

If I suspect a poisoning or overdose, shouldn't I visit the emergency room immediately?

If the person is not breathing, is unconscious, or having seizures, contact 911 right away. Otherwise, a call to the Maryland Poison Center is faster and a lot less expensive than a visit to the emergency room. More than 60 percent of all cases reported to the MPC are managed safely at home. For patients who are sent to the hospital, our specialists will continue to work with the doctors and nurses to develop a treatment plan that may help them recover faster.

With so much information online, can I use the internet, to find an answer to my poisoning or overdose problem?

Calling the MPC as soon as a poisoning or overdose is suspected is best. A call to the poison center ensures that you receive information specific to your situation from a poison expert. Searching the internet will provide only general information. The information found may be incorrect or outdated. It will also cost more time and effort to search for information online than to call the poison center; time that could be vital to saving your or a loved one's life.

Can the MPC plan a poison prevention program for my workplace or local organization?

Absolutely! The MPC is available to conduct staff trainings, workshops, lectures, and health fairs in our service area. The current service area for the MPC is the entire state of Maryland, except Prince George's and Montgomery Counties. While we will make every attempt to attend your event, please keep in mind that we have a limited staff for outreach and cannot attend all events to which we are invited. If we are unable to attend your event, we will make educational materials available for you to use at the event. For more information, please visit our "Request A Program" webpage.