What to do in a poisoning emergency

7th March 2024

Posted by Dr Michelle Wright

Do you know about the poisoning emergency line Tox Info Swiss? Dr Michelle explains when and when not to use it in this week’s Health Matters.

What is the Tox Info Swiss service?

Regular listeners will have heard me talk many times about the various numbers to call in Switzerland in an emergency situation. A lesser known of these numbers is 145 – the emergency hotline for Tox Info Swiss, the Swiss poisons information centre. There are a number of services that Tox Info Swiss provides. The one that’s probably most relevant to listeners is the service giving free medical advice in cases of poisoning and poisoning risk. This operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Physicians answer the calls and they make an assessment of each individual case and recommend the appropriate course of action and treatment.

Is there an app?

There is also a Tox info app available for iPhones and Android – you can find out more about this at  The website is available in English, French, German and Italian.

How many calls do they receive a year?

Tox Info Swiss receives around 40,000 consultations related to intoxication every year. And it offers a service for both the general public and also other healthcare professionals calling for advice. This includes the emergency services. More than half of consultations are related to children, with medication, cleaning products and plants the common causes of poisoning. For children, poisonings were mostly accidental, but for adults they were mostly self-induced – deliberate overdose or related to substance abuse. There are so many things that can act as poisons to the human body if a sufficient amount is ingested, or inhaled, or absorbed or injected through the skin.

What are the signs and symptoms of poisoning?

Poisoning can cause lots of different signs and symptoms depending on which poison is involved and how much. If you’re faced with a poisoning situation where you have a seriously unwell person then you know you need urgent medical attention for them. This might be perhaps someone with a reduced level of consciousness. Or maybe it is someone who isn’t breathing or is having major problems breathing.

In these cases, you shouldn’t call 145 – you should call for an ambulance immediately.

Remember the number to call for an ambulance in Switzerland is 144. In neighbouring France it’s 15 and the Europe-wide emergency services number is 112.

However, if there is a poisoning situation where a person is stable and they aren’t in immediate danger  – they have a normal level of consciousness, they don’t have breathing difficulties, they’re not severely unwell – THEN you can call Tox Info Swiss on 145 for advice.


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