Tuesday, February 21, 2017

TPCN Spotlight: Sal Baeza, West Texas Poison Director

1. Tell me your history with poison control. How long have you worked there/what is your background:
I've worked in the West Texas Regional Poison Center since 2002.  I'd originally done a rotation here during my last year of pharmacy school.  After graduating I completed a Pediatric Pharmacy Residency and was recruited to come back to the center by our previous directors, Leo Artalejo and John Haynes.  I worked as a Specialist and was fortunate to become a Diplomate of the American Board of Applied Toxicology with their support.  After Leo's retirement in 2012, I was promoted to Director.

2. What do you think is one of the most important aspects of poison control services?
One of the most important and yet overlooked aspects of our poison control centers' services is the immediate and direct impact that we can make on our patients' and their families' lives.  There is never a good time for an accident or an emergency.  Yet when one happens where a loved one has been exposed to something they shouldn't, whether it be a toddler drinking a household cleaner, a double dose on a medication, or even a rattlesnake bite, it is great to know that people can call us and we can walk them through what exactly needs to be done, whether that be at home or in the hospital.  Our experienced specialists are nurses and pharmacists that can provide the most appropriate information based on your situation.  There is no need to waste valuable time looking something up online and hoping you find the right website. 

3. What do you enjoy most about your job and why?
What I enjoy most about working in the poison center is being able to help so many patients.  Over 80% of the time we are able to safely keep a patient at home or work by providing them the correct information on what the actual risks are from their situation, what signs and symptoms to monitor for, what they can do and, just as important, what they shouldn't do.  In all those cases where we are able to keep someone out of the ER and we just made their day.  They don't have to pull the kids from school and miss their practices or games.  They don't have to miss work.  They don't have to disrupt their entire day by running to a busy and crowded ER or doctor's office and wait for hours to be seen.  Knowing that we just saved them all that headache and worry is what I enjoy most. 

4. What do you think the public needs to know regarding poison control?
When people think of poison they most often picture the skull and crossbones or some steaming concoction made up in a lab in an old black & white movie.  People don't realize that anything can be a poison.  About 2/3 of our calls are regarding medications, both over-the-counter and prescription.  Many people wouldn't consider their regular daily medication to be a poison. Yet when taken incorrectly or by the wrong person, it most certainly can be.  The same can be said for all of our household products from your personal hygiene and beauty products found in your bathroom and vanity to the different detergents and cleaners you keep in the laundry room and garage.  Anything can be a poison and only the dose differentiates a poison from a cure.  It doesn't matter what it is, you can call us.

5. Share a funny story here that might have happened on the job.
I didn't know how to bake a turkey until my first Thanksgiving working in the poison control center.  I never imagined so many things could go wrong in baking a big bird.  My colleagues had warned me, so I'd planned to use the USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline as my backup.  I didn't know that they closed at noon local time!  Baking frozen turkeys, broken meat thermometers, innards left in the plastic bag in the baking turkey, Teflon pans left in the oven, carbon monoxide and smoke alarms going off in the home, is 8 hours at 350 degrees long enough...the calls were non-stop.  I was stuck having to call my grandmother for advice on what to tell a few callers who'd run into mishaps in their kitchens.  After about my third call to her, she asked, "What are you doing?  I thought you were at work."  Yes, this comic is so true...and I now know how to bake a turkey!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Holiday Poison Safety: What You Need to Know to Stay Safe

It’s the most wonderful time of year when families and friends gather round to give thanks and appreciation as well as spend quality time together. This quality time usually includes delicious food! But this food could also make you terribly sick if it isn’t cooked or stored properly. The Texas Poison Center Network has compiled some tips to make sure your holiday season- and food- is most enjoyable!

ü  Make sure you always wash your hands before and after handling food. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says the best way to wash hands is with these five easy steps: wet, lather, scrub, rinse, and dry!

ü  Protect yourself and others from food poisoning by being cautious about how you cook and how long you leave food out of the refrigerator. When handling uncooked meat, you should not only wash your hands before but also after handling. The same goes for any utensils or countertops where the uncooked meat is prepared. And remember to reheat leftovers to at least 165 degrees. Avoid leaving food unrefrigerated for more than two hours.

ü  Watch out for potentially poisonous plants. Keep mistletoe, holly berry and Jerusalem cherry out of reach of children and pets. If you think your child might have gotten into any of these plants, please call the Texas Poison Center Network at 1-800-222-1222.

ü  Make sure toys are age appropriate. Toys designated above a child’s age level could be hazardous to their health. For example, avoid giving small children toys with button batteries. If swallowed, they can cause serious damage. See which toys have been recalled.

ü  “Angel hair”, a Christmas decoration usually made of spun glass, can irritate the skin and eyes. Be sure to always wear gloves when handling and keep out of reach of children.

The Texas Poison Center Network wishes you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. And if you ever find yourself in a poison emergency, please do not hesitate to contact us any time at 1-800-222-1222.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

I was a Mom before I was a Poison Educator: This is My Story

While I was working on my bachelor’s degree, I was a stay-at-home mom of three boys and one girl. The creative curiosities that make great stories, such as Dennis The Menace, are exactly the kind of curiosity that engages my two middle boys to explore the world in a way I never would have imagined. They are 16 months apart and are similar in behavior to that of twins. I like to call them “Double Trouble” or “Bash Brothers,” depending on what the situation warrants. If they are best friends and exploring together, then they are Double Trouble; however, if they are worst enemies, then they are Bash Brothers.

As they have grown, we have experienced all kinds of terrifying events:

·         Climbing out of their bedroom window, while I was asleep in my bed, and running up and down a busy street
·         Removing the outlet cover to stick a pipe cleaner in that ended up blowing the outlet
·         Evacuating an entire school for hours because they pulled a fire alarm
·         Making messes that are and should remain an element of nightmares
Honestly, I could go on and on with a list of things they did to explore the world around them. Let’s face it, kids are curious and boys are insane; even if they are adorably cute! However, one thing I never worried about with them was poisons. I did not know the number to the poison center, but buried deep in the back of my mind somewhere I knew one existed.

When both of my boys were in school, I had a challenge of getting them in bed at a decent hour. I would turn off the light and leave their room, but they would continue to talk for hours. Finally, another mom mentioned giving my boys Melatonin to help them go to sleep. After checking with my boy’s doctor, I began giving them Melatonin as well. It was not very expensive, came in flavored tablets that they could dissolve in their mouth and it worked wonderfully!
One Friday evening, my husband and I went on a long-over-due date. We had just finished up with dinner when my mom calls (she was watching the kids) in a panic because one of my boys had eaten 9 or 10 Melatonin. My first reaction as a mom is, “what do I do?” It is amazing what happens when you are in “save my kid” mode. I pulled the existence of the poison center into the front of my mind, but I had no idea where to find the number. This was before we could just look anything up on our phones, so I turned to what we did have available–the phone book.
The specialist at the poison center was amazing. She provided peace of mind that my son would be OK, a little sleepy, but OK. They also offered to call back and check on him.
A couple of years after this terrifying experience, I was hired at a poison center as a community educator. My main mission is to make sure people know about the services the poison center offers and how to reach them. One of the things that affect me the most is the look on a person’s face when they tell me they have had to call the poison center for their child. No matter what we do as parents, sometimes our kids just get into things. The specialists at the poison center have heard stories that only a highly creative mind of a child could possibly dream up! Your kid is not the only one that has gotten into potentially dangerous things, and he will not be the last!
Now that I know that the specialists are trained medical professionals, I utilize them quite often. Calling 1-800-222-1222 provides fast and professional help for emergencies, information for questions and resources for prevention.

Written by Jennifer Watson, Poison Education & Outreach Manager with the Central Texas Poison Center located at Baylor Scott & White Health.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Hand Sanitizers: How Toxic Are They?

Hand sanitizers are very commonly used these days in schools, workplaces, homes, hospitals and other public places such as stores and libraries. In the past, studies have shown that the use of hand sanitizers reduces illnesses in house­holds and universities, and lowers absentee rates in schools. While hand sanitizers have contributed to cleanliness, it is still important to be careful when choosing to use them.
Most hand sanitizers contain ethanol, while some contain isopropyl alcohol. The concentration of alcohol in these products varies from 45% to 95%, with the most commonly used products in the range of 60-65%. In­gestions of toxic amounts of ethanol and isopropyl alcohol produce central nervous system depression ranging from inebriation to coma, vomiting, respiratory depression, hypothermia, hypotension, and hypoglycemia (with ethanol; in infants and children) or hyperglycemia (with isopropyl alcohol) may also occur.

Emails and news stories have surfaced recently alleging that children have developed toxic effects from in­gesting small amounts of hand sanitizers off of their hands. These accounts have resulted in questions to poi­son centers about whether they should be used in schools and other locations where children, and in some cases adults, frequent. While these products can be harmful if children ingest them in large quantities, they are safe when used in the correct amount and for the reason they were made. Most children remain asymptomatic or develop mild symptoms such as oral irritation and gastric upset.

How much hand sanitizer would be dangerous?
A hand sanitizer pump dispenses approximately 2.5 mL of liquid. If one pump of a 62% ethanol-containing hand sanitizer was ingested by an average two-year-old weigh­ing 15kg, a blood alcohol level of 17.3 mg/dL would be expected, considerably below a toxic level of 80-100 mg/dL. This same child would have to drink approximately 4-5 teaspoonfuls of the sanitizer in order to produce toxic effects that would require medical attention.

If you have any concerns regarding hand sanitizers, please call the Texas Poison Center Network at 1-800-222-1222. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer your calls. These specialists answer poison-related questions about medications, household products and other potentially dangerous substances and can provide poison education materials like brochures and stickers.  Poison information is also available at the Texas Poison Center Network website, www.poisoncontrol.org


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Teething Tablet Dangers

When a baby cries out in pain from teething, it is only natural to want to soothe your baby and ease this painful process. While it is normal to want to soothe your baby’s pain, it is important to use safe products to do so. It has recently come to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) attention that homeopathic teething tablets and gels are not the choice to make when looking to soothe your little one. If you have them in your home, the FDA is asking that you stop using them immediately and dispose of them properly.

Homeopathy is a natural form of medicine used by over 200 million people worldwide to treat both acute and chronic conditions. It is based on the principle of 'like cures like'. In other words, a substance taken in small amounts will cure the same symptoms it causes if it were taken in large amounts.

The teething tablets and gels are used on infants and toddlers and are said to help kids deal with the often painful process of teething. You can easily find them at any CVS, Hyland’s or Walgreen’s. But what makes these teething tablets so dangerous? Despite being able to find them almost anywhere, like many homeopathic items, the products haven’t been assessed or approved by the FDA. Health officials cannot confirm that they are safe or effective.

Consumers should seek medical care immediately if their child experiences seizures, difficulty breathing, lethargy, excessive sleepiness, muscle weakness, skin flushing, constipation, difficulty urinating, or agitation.

In 2010, the FDA warned parents not to use homeopathic teething tablets and gels after receiving reports of babies having experienced negative side effects – such as seizures – from these products. The FDA is currently testing product samples and did release a safety alert that said “Hyland’s Teething Tablets contained inconsistent amounts of belladonna, a substance that can cause serious harm at larger doses.”

Teething problems can be managed in other ways including small doses of Tylenol or Advil. To find out what is best for your baby, it is important to talk with your doctor or pharmacist before purchasing and giving your baby any medications, homeopathic or not. It is also extremely important to always verify the correct dosage of medication to give your baby. Medication overuse in babies can lead to dangerous consequences. If you have any questions concerning teething tablets or dosage amounts, please do not hesitate to contact the Texas Poison Center Network for more information 24/7 at 1-800-222-1222.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Learn the Basics for keeping your Baby Poison-free during Baby Safety Month

It’s baby safety month and what better way to celebrate than to become more informed on how best to keep your baby out of harm’s way. Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) started baby safety month in 1983 as Expectant Mother’s Day. As time went on, the day became a weeklong celebration, until 1991, when it was acknowledged throughout the entire month of September.

There are many important things to remember when it comes to keeping babies safe from hidden or even unhidden dangers. At the Texas Poison Center Network, we compiled some of the most important issues when it comes to caring for babies and their safety. Check out our tips below:

·         The most common problem for age 0-6 months is medication errors. It is important to always use a measuring syringe or dropper when giving medication to a baby. Over-medicating can be very dangerous. If you are unsure how much medication to give your baby, please contact your pharmacist or physician or the poison center first.

·         Cabinets containing cleaning materials or other product that may be considered harmful if ingested should be locked up. If you are unable to lock the cabinets, then these items should be moved to an area that is out of sight and out of reach of young children.

·         Know the names of the plants you have in your home and in your yard. Check with poison control if you are not sure if a plant is poisonous or not. (1-800-222-1222)  If a plant is poisonous, remove it from your home or yard immediately to prevent anyone from accidentally ingest it.

·         Keep medications out of sight and out of reach of children. This includes vitamins, cough syrup, prescription and non-prescription medications and even herbal formulations.  All of these items can be appealing to small children; which is why it is so important to keep them locked up and away from prying eyes.

·         Make sure you stay updated on any product recalls, including food and baby items such as strollers and cribs. An additional step you can take is filling out the product registration cards when you purchase baby items. This way, if there is a recall of a product, you will be the first to know.

For more information on baby safety and poison control safety, please visit www.poisoncontrol.org. If you find you or someone you know in a poison emergency, or just have questions about poison, please do not hesitate to call us at 1-800-222-1222.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Seniors Are at Risk for Poisonings Too!

While many senior adults are not sure why they should be concerned about poison centers and poison prevention, the average amount of medicine – prescription, over-the-counter, vitamin and herbal – consumed by seniors continues to increase. At the same time, calls to the Texas Poison Center Network about seniors also have steadily increased for the past few years, and many of these calls concern medicines.

These tips can help keep senior adults poison-safe:

  • Keep an up-to-date list of all medicines a person takes. These include prescriptions, over-the-counter products, vitamins and herbals.
  • Share the list with all doctors and pharmacists to check for drug interactions. Surprisingly, even herbal supplements can interact with a prescription drug. Be sure to always check with a doctor before adding vitamins or herbal supplements to daily prescription medicines.
  • If possible, use the same pharmacy to fill all prescriptions. This also helps with avoiding negative drug interactions.
  • Keep all medicines in their original containers to avoid confusion with the type of medicine and dosage. This is especially important when acetaminophen is an ingredient because taking too much can cause liver damage. Many pain relievers and sleeping products include acetaminophen and labels may not be clear as to what they contain.
  • Always read the label prior to taking any medicine, and never try to take it in the dark or without glasses to avoid mistaking medicines or taking an overdose.  
  • Follow all medicine dosage instructions to avoid taking too much.
  • Develop a system for medicine tracking to help show when it has been taken, such as a check-off list or medicine journal. This helps to ensure the medicine has been taken also helps prevent extra doses from being taken accidentally.
  • Dispose of all medicines that are no longer needed, such as expired medicines and prescriptions that have been discontinued. This helps to prevent senior adults from taking the wrong medicine or drugs interacting with each other. Many communities have collection events or drop boxes for safe disposal of medicines, so ask your local pharmacist for suggestions. To find out when and where the next collection event will be, click on one of these links: http://www.medicationcleanout.com or http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/index.html. Some police departments have full-time medication dropboxes so you can go by anytime to drop off those unused or expired medicines.  To find one near you, just click on the link below: http://www.americanmedicinechest.com/.
  • Never take someone else’s medicine. Even if it could be beneficial, it might interact with a person’s other medicines. Plus, taking other people’s prescriptions is illegal!
  • Be very cautious when considering ordering medicines over the Internet. It is often impossible to tell if they are coming from another country, and the ingredients may not be what are claimed. This especially applies to supplements that make claims for “miracle cures.” Ask family members or a pharmacist to investigate the site before sending money or taking products obtained online.
  • Keep the Poison Help toll-free number handy for poison information and emergencies. If a poisoning is suspected, call the Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.

For more information about seniors and medicine safety, visit our website at www.poisoncontrol.org or call the Texas Poison Center Network at 1-800-222-1222.