Help desk receives 220,000 reports of poisoning per year
Turkey’s national poison helpline receives an average of 220,000 reports of poisoning and intoxication each year.
The ALO 114 UZEM hotline offered by the Health Ministry has been helping residents with a variety of poisoning incidents ranging from swallowing household bleach to eating rotten food.
The center has been in service since 1998. Its main job is to guide doctors who come across poisoning cases in hospitals. But it also offers residents 7/24 consultation services from a team of 36 personnel, including eight doctors, five pharmacists and 13 consultants.
The UZEM staff undergo training before they qualify to give advice on the ALO 114 hotline. Doctors take three-month-long training, whereas pharmacists take six-month-long training before they take residents’ calls.
The doctor who oversees services at UZEM said that about 70 percent of poisoning incidents stem from the misusage of medicines. And most of these calls are made after 6 p.m.
Poisoning from the improper usage of cleaning products make up 10 percent of poisoning-related incidents and usually occurs during housecleaning, said Dr. İbrahim Koç. For example, when cleaning chemicals are left out in the open, a child might open the bottle and drink it, he said. Children, aged 0-5, account for 30 percent of cleaning product-related poisoning incidents.
“Chemicals should be put in places where children cannot reach them,” Koç said.
Koç also said that many people make the mistake of getting the poisoned person to vomit up the chemical.
“Because the chemical burns the esophagus when it is going down the stomach anyway. And when the person is made to vomit, the esophagus is exposed to the chemical once again and is burned for the second time. Moreover, during vomiting, the chemicals might leak to the lungs,” he said.
Hospital and health workers also obtain advice from the ALO 114 hotline. The UZEM personnel first determine if the hospital where the call was made is equipped sufficiently to treat the patient.
“Afterwards, the [UZEM] consultants give information to the [hospital] doctor regarding the chemical that caused the poisoning. They tell the doctor about the symptoms that might arise in the patient,” said Koç.
And if an antidote is necessary, the UZEM consultants tell the hospital doctor where that antidote is stocked and how they can access it.
Antidotes are stocked in 21 centers in 15 provinces. In every stock center, there are 17 kinds of antidotes. For the antidote’s transportation to the relevant hospital, 17 helicopters, three planes and 112 ambulances within the body of the Health Ministry are in service.