Changes in Poison Center Calls for Intentional Exposure During Public Health Emergencies: COVID-19 and Winter Storm Uri in Dallas County, Texas

Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2023 Mar 21:17:e361. doi: 10.1017/dmp.2023.6.


Objective: This study aimed to: (1) explore changes in the volume of calls to poison control centers (PCs) for intentional exposures (IEs) in Dallas County, Texas, overall and by gender and age, and (2) examine the association between 2 different public health emergencies (PHEs) and changes in IE call volume.

Methods: PCs categorize calls they receive by intentionality of the exposure, based on information from the caller. We analyzed data on PC calls categorized as intentional in Dallas County, Texas, from March 2019 - April 2021. This period includes the COVID-19 pandemic declaration (March 2020), a surge in COVID-19 cases (July 2020), and Winter Storm Uri (February 2021). Changes in IE call volume (overall and by age and gender), were explored, and interrupted time series analysis was used to examine call volume changes after PHE onset.

Results: The summer surge in COVID-19 cases was associated with 1.9 additional IE calls/day (95% CI 0.7 to 3.1), in the context of a baseline unadjusted mean of 6.2 calls per day (unadjusted) before November 3, 2020. Neither the pandemic declaration nor Winter Storm Uri was significantly associated with changes in call volume. Women, on average, made 1.2 more calls per day compared to men during the study period. IE calls for youth increased after the pandemic declaration, closing the longstanding gap between adults and youth by early 2021.

Conclusions: Changes in IE call volume in Dallas County varied by gender and age. Calls increased during the local COVID-19 surge. Population-level behavioral health may be associated with local crisis severity.

Keywords: behavioral health; covid-19; pandemic; poison control centers; suicide.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Emergencies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pandemics
  • Poisons*
  • Public Health
  • Texas / epidemiology


  • Poisons