2020 webPOISONCONTROL data summary

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



The American journal of emergency medicine






Internet-based intervention; Online access to poison control; Poison control centers; Poisoning epidemiology; Population surveillance


INTRODUCTION: Increasing use of the internet for health information has decreased utilization of traditional telephone-based poison centers in the United States. webPOISONCONTROL®, a browser-based tool and app was launched to meet the growing demand for online, personalized recommendations for human poison exposures. This study was conducted to characterize webPOISONCONTROL cases and highlight its potential for real-time monitoring of poisoning. METHODS: Case data for all completed, nonduplicated public cases entered in 2020 were analyzed using a custom Qlik Sense dashboard. RESULTS: Of the 156,202 cases, 52.9% occurred in children younger than 4 years. Most cases (109,057, 69.8%) were initially triaged to home, 28.4% were advised to call Poison Control, and 1.7% were referred to the ED. Follow-up was available for 33.3% of home-triaged cases; 1.7% of those had a change in triage recommendation. Pharmaceuticals were implicated in 41.5% of cases (nonpharmaceuticals in 58.5%). Ingestion was the most common route (88.4%, 138,012). One-time double dose therapeutic error cases were implicated in 17,901 cases (27.6% of pharmaceutical cases). Cosmetics (13.9%) and cleaning substances (12.9%) were the most frequent substance categories. Melatonin was the most frequently implicated generic substance (4.5% of cases). Most (72.0%) cases had no effect (21.4%), a minor effect (3.9%) or were minimally toxic with unknown outcome (46.7%). There were no deaths, 17 major outcomes (0.01%), and 26.7% of cases had potentially toxic exposures with no outcome determination. In 2020, webPOISONCONTROL handled 7.3% as many human poison exposure cases as were reported to U.S. phone-based poison centers. Online cases are skewed towards younger ages (53% in children younger than 4 years vs 37% of phone-based cases) and towards nonpharmaceuticals (58.5% vs 43.5%). Near real-time data visualizations enabled detection of COVID-19-related increases in exposures to hand sanitizers and cleaners, illustrating the public health surveillance and hazard detection capabilities of webPOISONCONTROL. CONCLUSION: The webPOISONCONTROL tool provides a safe, quick and fully-automated alternative to those who are unable or unwilling to use the telephone to call a traditional poison center.


Emergency Medicine