Thursday, June 2, 2016

Keep Your Eyes Peeled for Snakes

With recent heavy rains, snakes have been out in full force. At a North Texas daycare, a little boy was bit by a copperhead (read here). In Birmingham, a 4-year-old girl and a 76-year-old woman were both bitten by snakes while in a garden (read here). Most snakes are harmless, but some are venomous and can be very dangerous. Here are the snakes in Texas that you should keep a lookout for this time of year:

Cottonmouth: A cottonmouth can reach lengths of up to five feet long. Commonly called a Water Moccasin, these snakes enjoy being near bodies of water and are usually dark black in color with wide bands on its body. This type of snake can be aggressive so keep your eyes open when playing by lakes, ponds and rivers.

Rattlesnake: The Western Diamondback rattlesnake is one of the most common rattlesnakes you’ll find in Texas (except for the eastern part of the state) and accounts for most of the serious envenomations. It can reach lengths of up to seven feet and has a triangular shaped head. They often spend their days hiding in low-growing shrubs or under rocks. The most identifiable part of this snake is its rattle, followed by an equally banded black and white tail and diamond-shaped patterned skin (hence its name). They are not usually aggressive but can be if their habitat is disturbed or threatened or if they feel cornered; so watch where you’re walking when out on hikes!

Copperhead: These snakes are also very common Texas (except for the western part of the state). It can reach up to 30 inches long and has a reddish-brown head and a coppery body. These snakes are usually not aggressive and most people only get bitten by accidently stepping on them. The reason it might be easy to step on one is because they blend in so well with oak leaves and other vegetation. Make sure you are aware of your surroundings and where you are walking when in wooded or park areas.

Texas Coral Snake: This snake is the most colorful of the bunch, only reaching about 2 feet in length. They are not too hard to miss with their bright red, black and yellow rings on the body, but there are other non-venomous snakes that look very similar. Although we don’t see very many Coral snake bites, the bite can be dangerous, especially in children. Their mouths are quite small so they have an easier time biting young children than they do an adult. It is best to avoid these snakes and remember the saying: Red touching yellow, kills a fellow, while red touching black, venom they lack!

Think you've been bitten by a snake?

·         Remain as calm as possible. The more calm you are the slower your heart beats, slowing the spread of the venom.

·         Call your local poison center (1-800-222-1222) right away! Keep the number programmed in your phone so that you have it when you need it. They are available to help 24/7.

·         Avoid food, drinks, and medications -including medications for pain and/or aspirin.

·         Do not try to capture the snake for any purpose.

·         Remove jewelry or anything that may constrict swelling.

·         Do not try to suck the venom out.

·         Do not pack the wound with ice.

·         Do not cut the wound

·         Do not apply a tourniquet

Attempting to treat the bite incorrectly can result in further injury to the area. It is important to remain calm and get to your nearest hospital right away.

Snake bites can be scary, but calling the poison center immediately can help ease your worries and give you some peace of mind. Please do not hesitate to contact the Texas Poison Center Network for FREE assistance. And in case you forgot, here’s the number to save in your phone: 1-800-222-1222.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

What You Need to Know About the Zika Virus and Standing Water


As we make our way through spring and soon head into the summer months, mosquito season is in full force. Mosquitoes are known to carry the Zika virus which can cause fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The Zika virus infection is most dangerous for pregnant women because it can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other severe fetal brain defects.

This spring has been filled with heavy rains, which means the mosquitoes are more rampant than ever. The Texas Poison Center Network wants you to know what you can do to help eliminate being infected by the Zika virus. Here are a few steps you can take to help eliminate mosquitoes breeding around your home:

·         Remove standing water, as this is where mosquitoes breed. This includes pet water bowls, flower pots, buckets, birdbaths, trashcans, and rain barrels. Once a week, remove standing water around your home and wash out the container the water was in. This way you also get rid of any mosquito eggs waiting to hatch.

·         If you need to store water outside, make sure it is covered with a tight lid to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in it.

If you are finding lots of mosquitoes already around your home, follow these steps to help eliminate your chances of being bitten:

·         Wear long sleeved shirts and pants.

·         Stay inside

·         Use insect repellents with DEET and make sure to follow directions on the bottle. (DEET repellent is not recommended for younger than two months of age)

If you are pregnant, check out this link from the CDC that contains important steps to take to stay free of the Zika virus: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/pdfs/zika-pregnancy.pdf.

If you have questions about the Zika virus, or you are concerned you might have contracted it, contact the Texas Poison Center Network at 1-800-222-1222.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Laundry Detergent Packs Pose a Risk to Young Children

Back in 2013 we wrote a blog on the risks of colorful laundry detergent packs to children (You can read the blog here). Unfortunately, these laundry packs are still a concern to children. In 2016, through April 30, poison centers received 3,795 exposure calls involving these highly concentrated packets of laundry detergent by children 5 and younger in the United States.

These single-dose detergent capsules have a candy-like appearance and consist of a highly concentrated liquid that dissolves when in contact with water.   Due to their colorful nature, they are attractive to children and can become a danger to young children in the home.


Example of Laundry Packs and How
Similar they look to Candy
If a child were to put the laundry detergent pack into his/her mouth, it could cause the packet to burst.  This can result in the child becoming ill and possibly even needing hospitalization. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), some children who have gotten the product in their mouths have had excessive vomiting, wheezing and gasping. Some get very sleepy while others have had breathing problems serious enough to need a ventilator to help them breathe.  There have also been reports of corneal abrasions (scratches to the eyes) when the detergent gets into a child’s eyes.

According to poison control officials, there has already been at least two fatalities from the ingestion of these laundry packs. They can be very dangerous for children and poison officials are urging parents of young children to avoid using the packets. By following the tips below, parents can eliminate the worry of their children ingesting them.

Here are some tips on how to keep these out of your child’s reach:

-       Keep detergent locked up, out of sight and out of their reach.

-       Always follow instructions on a product label.

-       If the doorbell or phone rings when you’re using the detergent pods, take them with you or put them out of the child’s reach first. Don’t turn your back on a child when any poisonous product is nearby. Most poisonings occur when the product is in use.

-       If you think your child has been exposed to any laundry detergent, but especially the highly concentrated laundry detergent packs, call your local poison center immediately at 1-800-222-1222. 

For more information on these laundry detergent packs, please visit http://www.aapcc.org/alerts/laundry-detergent-packets/ or call 1-800-222-1222.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

High School Student Recognizes Importance of Poison Education

High School projects can sometimes be daunting tasks, but the hope is always that the students learn and grow from these projects. For one junior at Carnegie Vanguard High School in Houston, poison control became the focus of her Texas Performance Standards Research project for the year and made her realize the importance of poison safety.

When Grace Vollmers chose her project, she set out to address poison education and learning about the different types of poisonings in relations to poisonous plants.
“I originally wasn’t planning on going into poison education,” she said. “At first, I was only really interested in the science of poisons, especially poisonous plants. After doing some research on accidental poisoning statistics, it struck me that this information was never really covered in elementary school.”

That’s when Grace set out to create some new curriculum for elementary students. She wanted them to learn about the dangers of poisons and how to stay poison-free. She learned that accidental poisonings are one of the leading causes of death especially for young children.
Over the yearlong project, Grace created curriculum for first, second, third, fourth and fifth grade students. She utilized look-a-like activities, scenario activities, and hidden poisonings coloring pages. She also created word searches, word jumbles, a PSA activity and group discussion activities. Each of the activities she created are geared toward the specific age group and they are not only fun but also useful for teaching about poisons.

“Through the course of my project I really learned to appreciate the patience and understanding that elementary school teachers have,” Grace said. “I hope that my product will serve as a valuable resource for schools and teachers in the future, and that it will shed some insight into how to better educate and protect children from the dangers of accidental poisonings.”
Interested in finding out more about Grace’s project? Check out her website at the following link and let her know what you think of her project: http://gracevollmers.wix.com/poisonsafetytpsp#!activities/c10d6.

Looking for information on poison control or accidental poisonings? Visit www.poisoncontrol.org today for more information. If you or a loved one might have been poisoned, please do not hesitate to contact the Texas Poison Center Network at 1-800-222-1222.

Monday, April 25, 2016

How Poisonous are Weed Killers?

Springtime is upon us which means lots of pesky weeds will be more prevalent as will the use of weed killers. Weed killers are popular to maintain lawns and landscaping. But how safe are children and pets being around these chemicals? 

Thousands of exposures are reported to U.S. poison centers every year. Fortunately, the majority of cases have mild to no symptoms. However, major effects or even death can occur. These cases usually involve deliberate, large ingestions. But there are also inadvertent or exploratory ingestions by children that generally only cause mild irritation of the exposed tissue in areas such as the gastrointestinal tract, skin, eyes, or respiratory tract.

The two major classes of herbicides in the U.S. are glyphosates and chlorophenoxy compounds. Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide, and is the most widely used herbicide in the US. It is available under a variety of trade names, including Roundup. Glyphosate is related to the amino acid glycine and kills plants by interfering with the synthesis of other amino acids. The addition of other chemicals to glyphosate mixtures (such as diquat and surfactants) are responsible for much of the reported toxicity. Exposure is common because of the popularity of these products, but severe toxicity is rare.
Ingestion of products containing glyphosate can cause gastrointestinal effects (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain), oral pain, and slight sedation. Skin exposure can cause it to become red and irritated along with “goose bumps”. These products are not expected to produce significant adverse effects when users follow the recommended instructions. They generally state that, “Pets such as cats and dogs should remain out of the treatment area until it is thoroughly dry. Once the application area has dried, your pets may reenter the area. Although they may eat a small amount of grass, they will not be able to eat enough of the product to cause a health hazard.”

Chlorophenoxy compounds (also known as 2,4-D compounds) are other chemicals commonly found in weed killers. Several hundred commercial products contain these compounds in various forms, concentrations, and combinations. They are often mixed into commercial fertilizers to restrict the growth of broadleaf weeds. Chlorophenoxy compounds have been shown to cause skin irritation with skin contact; airway irritation with inhalation; and nausea, vomiting, and increased acid levels with large ingestions.
For those who prefer non-chemical options for weed control: manually pulling out weeds by the roots to prevent regrowth, mulching, and possibly by applying acetic acid like vinegar to unwanted plants may be considered.

Overall, weed killers intended for residential use are considered safe when used appropriately. It is important to read all instructions on the product’s labeling and allow the product to completely dry before permitting children or pets to enter the lawn. As with all chemicals, be sure to store in the original container and out of reach from children. The Texas Poison Center Network is a trustworthy and easily accessible resource to take advantage of if an inadvertent exposure occurs, to find out if a trip to the Emergency Department is necessary as well as just to ask any questions.  Specialist at the poison center can be reached 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by calling 1-800-222-1222.



Monday, April 11, 2016

CSEC Seeking Public Member for the Poison Control Coordinating Committee

Do you think you have what it takes to make a difference in poison control? We hope you do! The Texas Commission on State Emergency Communications (CSEC) is seeking an interested individual to serve as its public appointee to the state's Poison Control Coordinating Committee (PCCC). While the position is unpaid and a volunteer position, it comes with a lot of benefits in other ways.

“It is wonderful to be a part of a team that works toward the health and safety of Texans.  The Poison Control Network provides a vital service for Texans in poison emergencies,” previous public member Grace Chimene said. “As the Public Member to the Poison Control Coordinating Committee, you will have an opportunity to provide an outsider's viewpoint and a public perspective to help coordinate TPCN services across the state.”

The 81st Texas Legislature created the committee (House Bill 1093) for the purposes of coordinating the activities of the state's six regional poison control centers and advising the Commission. The committee is composed of representatives of the CSEC, the Department of State Health Services (DSHS), each of the six Regional Poison Control Centers, and one public member appointed by CSEC. The committee typically meets monthly, usually by conference call.

“Poison emergencies happen fast.  I took pride in the volunteer service I provided as the Public Member to the Poison Control Coordinating Committee,” Chimene said. “This is a wonderful opportunity to help an organization whose goal is to be accessible 24 hours a day with well-trained medical professionals available to help in a poison emergency.”

This position is very important to the PCCC and as the Public Member, your opinion will provide valuable insight and understanding from the public’s perspective. This position does not require any training, but if you have training in clinical medicine, pharmacology, or nursing, this would provide even more value to the PCCC.

“As a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, I understood the importance of the services provided by the Poison Control Network,” Chimene said. “My little patients and their families rely on this emergency service to be effective, well-coordinated, and high quality.”

If you are interested in finding out more about this position or are interested in serving, please contact CSEC’s Executive Director Kelli Merriweather at (512) 305-6938, or kelli.merriweather@csec.texas.gov.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Why Alcohol and Medications Don’t Mix

It usually starts out harmless. You take your prescribed medication once you get home from work. Then a friend calls and invites you to dinner. You meet for dinner and decide to have a couple of glasses of wine. But did you know that alcohol and medicines often don’t mix? What most people don’t realize is that alcohol mixed with certain medications can be a very dangerous combination.

Combining alcohol and medicines, whether prescription or over-the-counter, can lead to life-threatening consequences depending on the medicine, the amount of alcohol consumed, medical conditions, body size and age.

Alcohol can interact with medicines in several ways:

  • Medications, such as the antibiotic metronidazole, may prevent the metabolism of alcohol and cause a “disulfiram-like” reaction that includes abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and flushing.  This reaction has even been reported to cause sudden death.   
  • Alcohol can make the risk of drowsiness and impaired motor function caused by medicine more likely.
  • Alcohol can increase the risk of medicine side effects, such as lowered blood pressure and stomach irritation.     

Not everyone is affected the same way. Because of a smaller body size, a woman who drinks the same amount as a man will have a higher alcohol level in her blood, making her more at risk for an interaction. Elderly people may experience more drowsiness and motor impairment than their younger counterparts when they combine alcohol with another medicine that causes drowsiness.  People who regularly consume large quantities of alcohol are at more risk of some types of interactions than those who have only an occasional drink.  

The Texas Poison Center Network wants you to keep these in mind when tending to your medications:

  • If a medicine causes you to be drowsy, assume that it will interact with alcohol to make you even drowsier and more likely to be impaired. Examples include cough and cold medicine and over-the-counter sleep aids.  
  • If you are taking a prescription drug for anxiety, stress, depression, mood control, seizure control, or pain control, always assume that alcohol will interact with it. In addition to increasing the risk for drowsiness, dizziness and impairment, mixing alcohol with these medicines can place you at risk for life-threatening breathing difficulties and other dangerous effects.  People taking these drugs should not drink beverages containing alcohol. 
  • If you are taking any medicine to treat stomach pain, be aware that alcohol can make stomach pain worse and make the drug less effective. 
  • If you are taking any medicine that causes you to have stomach pain or nausea, drinking alcohol will likely make your stomach pain and nausea worse. 
  • Some blood pressure drugs, when mixed with alcohol, increase the chance for your blood pressure to drop too low. Check with your doctor or pharmacist for details about the specific blood pressure medicine you are taking. 
  • Some diabetes drugs, when mixed with alcohol, can make your blood sugar fall too low. 
  • When mixed with alcohol, some antibiotics and diabetes drugs can cause flushing, nausea, vomiting, confusion, low blood pressure and abnormal heart rhythms. These medicines usually have a sticker on the prescription bottle warning against consuming alcohol.

Remember, this is not a full list of interactions between medicines and alcohol. If you take any medicine, always talk with a doctor or pharmacist before drinking alcohol. If someone does experience effects from combining alcohol and medicine, call the Texas Poison Center Network at 1-800-222-1222 for expert medical help 24/7.