Tuesday, September 19, 2017

How Poison Centers Can Help During National Preparedness Month

In Texas, we were recently reminded by Hurricane Harvey of why being prepared for a national disaster is so incredibly important. September is National Preparedness Month which not only entails making sure that you are more prepared, but that you also have the right tools in place for whatever emergency comes your way. The Texas Poison Center Network is here to help with any questions you have during natural disasters and we hope these tips will help you create a kit for your family.

Emergency preparedness encompasses four important steps:
·         Get or create a disaster preparedness kit (Check out this list from the Ready.gov: https://www.ready.gov/build-a-kit)

·         Make a plan so your family knows what to do when a disaster happens (Check out this family communication plan from FEMA: http://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/34330)

·         Be informed so you know what to do when disaster strikes your area (Sign up for alerts in your area: https://www.ready.gov/alerts)

·         Get involved in preparing your community (FEMA shares ways you can get involved: http://www.fema.gov/volunteer-donate-responsibly)

 
How can the Poison Centers help during disasters? Here’s a list of ways: 

§  In the event of a chemical or biological attack, the staff at each poison center has extensive knowledge of healthcare resources and work with hospitals to ensure that patients get the right treatments needed. Experts are able to identify what antidotes can help and provide education to both the public and healthcare professionals.

§  Poison center staff handles acute and chronic poisonings as well as environmental and occupational exposures. This is an important resource because specialists in poison information are also experts in toxicology.

§  Poison centers collect data. The data collection system can assist in detection of diseases and help track individuals who might have been exposed to a hazard. This information is vital when it comes to issues of a bioterrorist attack.

§  Poison centers alleviate fear. As a 24 hour resource, you can contact them at ANYTIME with concerns or issues that you would like more information about.

The Poison Help Hotline is such an important resource to the community and the best part is it is available 24/7 for FREE! Call 1-800-222-1222 and put your mind at ease when dealing with any natural disaster or emergency. They are here to help!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

How to Find Help during Natural Disasters

Recently, tragedy struck when Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast and made its way inland causing major flooding, power outages, heavy winds and more. While this disaster is still occurring in some parts of Texas, many people are already looking for help from caring for their health needs and traumatic stress issues to thinking of rebuilding and everything in between.   The Texas Poison Center Network is here to help and can be a great resource that’s just a phone call away at 1-800-222-1222.

Health Precautions
After flooding and power outages, citizens should be aware that local drinking water might not be safe to drink. Make sure to use bottled water for drinking and cooking or boil water before drinking if bottled water is not available.  This should continue until notice is given by your city or town leadership that the water is safe to drink. If you must use boiled water for cooking or drinking, make sure you let it boil for at least two minutes from when you first begin to see the bubbles.  Make sure the water has completely cooled before drinking it. When it comes to food, if any of it has come in contact with flood water, throw it out - do not eat it! It could make you sick or worse. If you have lost electricity for longer than 4 hours, you should discard the food that required refrigeration.  Remember to always wash your hands with soap and clean water (boiled or bottled) before eating or drinking anything when you are busy cleaning up after a flood. You never know what could be in the water and you want to make sure not to infect your body with any bacteria.

Traumatic Stress Issues
Anytime a natural disaster as devastating as Hurricane Harvey occurs, it is important to remember the trauma and stress that any survivors endured.  When people lose their homes, personal belongings, or are put in situations that can be life threatening, it is normal to experience emotional distress like feelings of worry, anxiety, trouble sleeping or even depression.  Some examples of emotional distress include:

·         Fear that storms will get worst even if the forecast predicts the chances are low.
·         Difficulty handling emotions like anger, fear, anxiety, worry, or difficulty with participating in everyday activities like cleaning or caring for children.   
·         Having memories or nightmares of the tragic events experienced during the storm.
If someone you know is experiencing these symptoms for longer than two weeks, it is important for them to reach out for help. They can call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 for support and counseling needs. The hotline is available 24/7 and is answered by trained and caring counselors.

General Safety Precautions

·         Do not run gas-powered generators or use gas or charcoal grills indoors. These can cause carbon monoxide to build up indoors and can be extremely dangerous and even fatal.  This is why carbon monoxide is known as the “silent killer”.
·         Do not let children play in the flood water.  Flood water could be very toxic and can have animals or debris floating that could be very dangerous.  Keep your children safe.
·         After a flood, make sure to disinfect all furniture and household surfaces/items that have been in contact with flood water. Use a solution of one cup of bleach per five gallons of water and wipe down all parts exposed.
·         If you have a cut or a wound that was exposed to flood water, there is a risk of contracting tetanus. Make sure you get a tetanus vaccination if it has been longer than 10 years since your last shot.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Dangers of Too Much Caffeine

Caffeine has been used by mankind for centuries. Caffeine is a common substance found in products that we use every day, from medications to sodas and energy drinks. Also known as a stimulant drug, caffeine can have many risks if consumed in excess and in a short amount of time. 

Recently, a teen in South Carolina lost his life after drinking several caffeine-containing drinks. The 16-year-old had consumed a large soft drink, a latte and an energy drink over a short period and later collapsed at his high school. The cause of his death was “probable arrhythmia”; otherwise known as an abnormal beating of the heart.
While caffeine is generally considered safe for most adults in small quantities, too much can be dangerous and as in the case above, even deadly.  Since caffeine is a stimulant and can make the heart beat faster or irregularly, it is important to limit the amount of caffeine consumed.  Taking large amounts can also lead to increased urination which can result in a loss of essential nutrients and electrolytes that can also affect the heart.      

Taking too much caffeine can cause nausea, anxiety, tremors, irregular or increased heartrate, and vomiting.  If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms after ingesting a caffeine containing product, contact the Texas Poison Center Network at 1-800-222-1222 for help. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Dangers of Too Much Benadryl and Other Antihistamines in Young Children

The Texas Poison Center Network wants to warn you and your loved ones about the potential dangers of antihistamines such as Benadryl following the tragic death of several children. According to the state’s Child Fatality Review Panel, there were at least four infant and toddler deaths related to the use of Benadryl or similar antihistamines in Connecticut. Benadryl and other similar antihistamines are known to be toxic to young children.  An antihistamine is a type of medicine used to help with allergy relief such as sneezing and congestion. These medications contain diphenhydramine, which can cause drowsiness. They are not recommended for children under the age of four, mainly due to the negative effects they can have on the body.

Additional side effects in children include:

- Irritability
- Nervousness
- Seizures
- Nightmares
- Headaches and sometimes blurred vision
-Nausea or diarrhea

Because children are still growing, they are more susceptible to these medications, putting them at greater risk than that of an adult. Doctors rarely prescribe these types of medications to young children, and if they do, it is under strict supervision. If you or a loved one has ingested Benadryl or a similar antihistamine, please contact the Texas Poison Center Network at 1-800-222-1222. We are available 24/7 to answer any concerns or questions.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is April 29th!

Do you have unused or expired medications at home lying around in cabinets just collecting dust? Did you know that holding onto old medications is not a good idea?  All medications have an expiration date.  Not only should they not be used when expired, but if not disposed of, the wrong person could get into them and get poisoned. For these reasons, now is the time to spring into action and clean out those medicine cabinets so that you can get rid of all of your unneeded and expired medications.

On April 29th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is sponsoring a nation-wide drug take-back and in Texas, the Texas Poison Center Network is helping out in each of their regions. Safety is our number one concern! The National Prescription Drug Take-Back initiative addresses an important public safety and health issue. Prescription drugs that sit in medicine cabinets for a long period of time tend to be susceptible to abuse and misuse.

In the U.S. alone, prescription drug abuse is extremely high. By turning in unused and expired medications, you can help to. Remember, medications should not be flushed down the toilet, unless it is indicated on the label, because they can affect the clean water supply. Instead of throwing unwanted or unneeded medications in the trash (where kids or others could get them) or flushing them down the toilet (where it could contaminate the water), why not head to your nearest medication take-back location and turn them in.

By providing a drug take-back day, people have the opportunity to dispose of medications in an environmentally responsible and safe way. You will be doing yourself and your community a great service!  For more information on this initiative or to find a collection site near you, please visit http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/index.html.

You can also call your poison center at 1-800-222-1222 to obtain more information on safe medication disposal and storage or additional events in your area. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Pesticides Can Be Deadly if Handled Improperly

Recently, a terrible tragedy struck a Texas panhandle home and family. Four children heartbreakingly died from phosphine gas poisoning this past January due to pesticide pellets that had been placed underneath the home in an effort to kill mice. Officials explained that a chemical reaction occurred when one person tried to wash away the pesticide that had been placed under the house, which then created the release of poisonous phosphine gas.

Phosphine gas is dangerous because it can cause respiratory failure and in extreme cases, it can also cause pulmonary edema, which fills the lungs with fluid. Phosphine is a colorless, flammable, and toxic gas with an odor of garlic or decaying fish. It can also catch fire when it comes in contact with air.

How do you know if a pesticide is safe?

If a pesticide is sold over the counter in the U.S., then it should be safe to use around your home. In the poisoning case described above, the pesticide was not one that could be bought without a special license, so it should not have been used on the home unless it was being applied by a professional. It is important that people understand the dangers of using chemicals that are not sold in stores. Those for commercial use only safe for those who are certified in pest control services to use.

If you are not sure if a pesticide is safe, please contact your local poison center and they can help you out. Call 1-800-222-1222 for more information on pesticides or other potential poisonings.

Friday, March 31, 2017

TPCN Spotlight: Jeanie Jaramillo, Texas Panhandle Poison Director

Jeanie Jaramillo, Poison Director
1. Tell me your history with poison control. How long have you worked there/what is your background:

My introduction to the world of poison control occurred when I was a pharmacy student and completed a rotation at the local poison center. Until that time, I had no idea how much poison centers actually do! Following pharmacy school, I completed a drug information residency which allowed me to manage cases at the poison center one day each week. Shortly after that, I was asked to serve as the managing director.
 
2. What do you think is one of the most important aspects of poison control services?

 One of the most important aspects of poison control services is our work to help keep people from visiting emergency rooms unnecessarily. With approximately 80% of poisonings being manageable at home, it is so important to help people before they consider going to the emergency room. Aside from the expense of going to an ER, it can create a significant amount of anxiety, especially for children! Our healthcare professionals can assist callers by phone and in many cases, prevent these ER visits.

 3. What do you enjoy most about your job and why?

What I enjoy most about my job is the ability to develop programs that PREVENT poisonings. One such program has been the Medication Cleanout of the Texas Panhandle Poison Center. By facilitating the removal of unused medications from homes, we've been able to prevent numerous poisonings and perhaps even deaths. It's extremely gratifying to have participants come through and tell us how much they appreciate the program.

4. What do you think the public needs to know regarding poison control?

I think that the public needs to know that poison control is not just for kids! We can help those who have taken too much medication, or perhaps taken someone else's medication (like a spouse or child). We complete an assessment over the phone and then make recommendations regarding whether that person can stay at home, or if they need to go to an emergency room or physician's office. Also, many people don't think of drug overdoses as poisonings, but they are! If a person has taken an overdose of a medication, on purpose or unintentionally, we can help. We can also help people decide whether a specific plant or a pesticide is poisonous.

 
5. Share a funny story here that might have happened on the job.

 Probably every director's nightmare is actually needing to call the poison center regarding something that they've had happen to them! I have had to call. While washing my face one night, I got some of the cleanser in my eye and it burned so badly! Of course, I couldn't read the bottle at the time, so I wasn't sure if I simply needed to irrigate my eye with water or if I needed to go the emergency room to see if my cornea was burned. I called one of my very own nurses at the poison center and she helped me out very quickly. Thankfully, I did not need to go to the ER!