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Clinics & services

Victorian Poisons Information Centre

What to expect when you call the Victorian Poisons Information Centre

When you call, we will ask you some questions.

What we'll ask

What happened?

We need to know some details, for example:

  • "My friend swallowed some petrol"
  • "My child got some weed killer on his skin"
  • "My family has eaten some mushrooms that don’t look normal"
  • "A work mate splashed a chemical in his eye"

To whom did it happen?

Is the victim you, your child, your friend, your work mate, your husband, etc.?

For a child, we also need to know their age.

How much does the victim weigh?

It is often important to know the weight of the victim, especially when the incident involves medicines and children.

What substance is involved?

We need as much detail as possible. It is best if you can bring the container to the telephone so you can find the information we ask for.

Helpful information includes:

  • The brand name
  • Active ingredients/constituents
  • The strength of the active ingredients, especially for medications (e.g. paracetamol 24 mg/mL)
  • The manufacturer
  • What the product is used for and how it is used
  • Whether it is for household or industrial use
  • Whether it is liquid, powder, gas or solid
  • The type of container, e.g. spray bottle, dropper bottle
  • Size of the container
  • How full the container is now and before the incident.

If the poisoning involves a plant, we will need to know the name of the plant before we can give advice. Attempting to identify a plant over the telephone is not reliable. To make the situation easier it is best that you know the names (common name and/or botanical name) for all the plants in your house or garden before such an incident occurs.

How much was the person exposed to?

A whiff, a mouthful, a cupful, a splash, a lick? Checking how much of the substance is missing can help, you may need to count the remaining tablets or measure out the remaining liquid from a bottle of medicine.

When did it happen?

Did it just happen, or was it yesterday, or weeks or months ago?

Does the victim have any symptoms?

Is the person OK? If it is a child, are they distressed or do they seem to be quite happy and normal? Is there any coughing or choking? For skin exposures – is there any sign of skin irritation, broken skin or burns? For inhaled poisons – is there coughing, wheezing or any other breathing symptom or difficulty?

What treatment has been given already?

Has the victim had fluids to drink, has the skin been washed, has the eye been washed, etc.? Did someone induce vomiting? If so, how was this done? 

Your phone number

It is important that the Victorian Poisons Information Centre be able to contact you after your call. There are numerous reasons for this:

  • So we can check how the victim is, if required.
  • To reassure the caller who may not have been able to take in the information we provided during the initial call due to the stress of the situation.
  • To give additional advice if necessary.   

Your phone number and any other information you give us remains confidential. We do not keep a log of telephone numbers, we do not know how many times you have called – and we do not know if you call frequently.