It was a warm summer’s day. My kids and I were outside for our daily dose of vitamin D and vitamin N (nature!).
My oldest son was playing on the swing set. I was picking weeds. And my youngest son was hitting plants with sticks. Or at least that’s what I thought he was doing.
I heard a spitting sound and turned around to see my 1-year-old spitting toxic berries out of his mouth. When I looked closer, I saw casings of these berries all over his shirt.
I grabbed both boys, headed inside, and called poison control. Being a biologist, I knew exactly what species he had eaten–the silverleaf nightshade–and that it was toxic.
I heard someone speak on the other end of the line. It was a poison control representative from Texas. My calls to the national 1-800 number are automatically diverted to the state that corresponds with my area code.
I told her what happened and explained that I knew the exact species that he ate. She looked up the species in their database and told me to go to the ER.
Long story short, the Texas poison control rep looked up the wrong species, and we ended up paying an outrageous ER bill for no reason. If we would have called New Mexico poison control (which the ER did), they would have told us to keep him home and monitor him for a few hours. Turns out, silverleaf nightshade isn’t as toxic as some other nightshade species.
It was a costly mistake. And the worst part is, I had no idea that calling a state-specific office was important. For things like medicine and chemicals, you can talk to any poison control office. But when it comes to things in nature, it’s important to call the state you’re in. The representatives are better able to identify toxic species and give you good advice because they deal with them regularly.
2 Things You Should Know Before Planning Your Summer Adventures.
- Be aware of the number you call. If you call the 1-800 number, your call will be routed to the state that corresponds with your area code. If you’re vacationing in a different state, you’ll want to program that state’s direct number for poison control. This is vital if you have any accidents involving plants or animals. Poison Control Reps in the state of the accident will be able to better assist you. The New Mexico Poison Control Number is 505-272-2222.
- Take good pictures. Poison control has an amazing staff. They stay calm when you’re freaking out. They call you back to check up on your child. AND they can identify toxic plants and animals in your state. All you have to do is supply them with good photos. I know it’s hard to focus and take pictures when there’s an accident, but it’s important! In fact, you may want to assign that job to a family member just in case something happens on your vacation.
Have fun and stay safe during your summer adventures!
New Mexico Poison Control: 505-272-2222
And speaking of dangerous things outside, click here to read more about how you can deter snakes from around your home.
Originally published July 2019