Friday, October 20, 2017

Halloween Hazards to be on the Lookout for this Year

As we get closer to the end of October, many schools, organizations and parks will be hosting a variety of Halloween themed events. While this is an exciting time for youngsters to get dressed up in their favorite costumes, it can also be a time when dangers can be hiding all around us.

The Texas Poison Center Network (TPCN) wants you to enjoy your Halloween festivities safely! The TPCN offers parents the following safety tips to help prevent exposures and injuries on Halloween:

Candy and Treats:

·         Inspect all candy for any signs of tampering (examples include: tears, pinholes, discoloration, etc.) before eating or allowing children to eat. If you suspect any candy has been tampered with, please do not hesitate to report it to police.

·         Check all candy and edibles for any possible choking hazards.

·         Children should avoid eating homemade treats from strangers, and any treats that may contain marijuana or other drugs. If you suspect a child has consumed candy containing a drug, call 1-800-222-1222 for immediate assistance.

·         Limit the amount of candy ingested at one time. If too much candy is eaten at once, it can cause tummy aches.


·         Test face makeup on a small area of skin first (preferably on the arm) to check for allergic reaction before applying it to the face. Avoid decorating the face or body with products that aren’t intended for the skin.

·         If applying costume makeup to the face, avoid getting to close to the eyes and make sure to remove all makeup before bedtime to prevent irritation.

·         Throw out any makeup that has a bad smell; this could be a sign of contamination.

Glow in the Dark Jewelry or Glow Sticks:

·         These are usually used by parents to keep kids visible at night while they are trick-or-treating. Be careful as children can break these open and get the liquid on their hands, eyes, and/or mouth.

·         If this happens, wash the affected area with water and/or rinse the eyes thoroughly.

·         If any amount is ingested, contact your local poison center for additional information. 
Check out this video on glow stick safety from our West Texas Regional Poison Center:

Remember the TPCN is here to provide free and confidential information and treatment advice 24-hours a day, seven days a week, including holidays! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at 1-800-222-1222.

Friday, October 6, 2017

TPCN Spotlight: Specialist in Poison Information Serena Frederick

1. Tell me your history with poison control and how you became a SPI.

My name is Serena Frederick and I am a Specialist of Poison Information II, Certified (C-SPI II) at the Southeast Texas Poison Center in Galveston, Texas.  I have worked here since January 2011 "this time" but actually worked here for a 6 month period in 1987.  I am a Registered Nurse, and have been in Nursing for a total of 33 years now and have nursing experience in Critical Care, Psychiatry, Orthopedic Surgery, and Reproductive Endocrinology. In 1987 I was not "seasoned enough" and had not enough life and work experience to feel like I would be able to contribute to the Poison Center, so went back to inpatient nursing after 6 months here.  I am now "seasoned" , and with the advent of technology have been able to fulfill the requirements of the role and the needs of the Center by making this part of my nursing career, coming back and making it a win-win-win for Center-Self-Client.

2. I’m sure you hear a lot of interesting stories when answering calls, but what is one story that sticks out in your head that might have been scary, but turned out funny and/or everything worked out after the call.

There are so VERY many cases and stories and calls that come through that are memorable.  Some have been scary (ER code in progress, EMS on scene, multiple exposures at the same time) and others have been "lighter" in their nature.  The calls that are most memorable though are the ones where the client on the receiving end of the call relates to you how much better they feel after talking with you, how you helped them to calm down during their event, how you have made a difference in their experience and led them to understanding.

3. What do you think people need to know about the people who answer the phones for poison control?

I would like people to know that we SPI's that answer the phone are well-educated, well-trained, and non-scripted professionals that can think "on the fly" and approach each call based on what the needs for that particular caller are in light of the exposure information that is provided to us.  We ask a lot of questions, but NOT because of a "box to fill" but because we need specific information to give the best information to the caller to help make a decision in an educated and "non-guess" or "purely by the book" approach.  We are real, live persons on the other end: no apps, no dialogue algorithms, no computer program that tells us what to say......we are for REAL!

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

This job is challenging, and I like that.  There is not a day that goes by where I do not learn something new during the shift.  You could never make the claim that this job would allow you to become "intellectually stale" because you have to be able to think off the grid, on the fly, out of the box and be on GO at all times!  There is never any way to know WHAT is going to come over the line with each specific call, so being receptive and objective, and being able to engage the caller is critical....I believe it is called "people skills" !

5. Why do you think it is important for people to have poison control as a resource for emergency help?

I know that we can prevent a lot of unnecessary trips to the Emergency Services for the general public. We also provide a high-level professional resource for the medical community.  The most important calls to me though are the ones where you actually can help someone get direction to get IN TO the Emergency Services system when they need to, because every time that is done there is potentially a life that may have been saved!  What a great reward, knowing in your heart and soul that you actually helped someone who otherwise not have been helped or known where to turn!


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

·         Make a plan so your family knows what to do when a disaster happens (Check out this family communication plan from FEMA:

·         Be informed so you know what to do when disaster strikes your area (Sign up for alerts in your area:

·         Get involved in preparing your community (FEMA shares ways you can get involved:

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

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.