Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Laundry Pod Challenge: How Dangerous is it?

What started out as a silly joke has now gone viral; but this new social media challenge can have very dangerous consequences. Teens and adults are posting videos online of a laundry pod challenge that entails that the person challenged, eat laundry pods in various ways. Sadly, these videos show teens and adults following through with this challenge.

Why is this dangerous?
Laundry pods are full of chemicals used to clean your clothing- not anything you would ever want to eat. Ingredients in the laundry pods include ethanol, hydrogen peroxide and polymers, and its high concentration makes the tiny laundry pods toxic. While swallowing it can cause a mild stomach ache (including possible vomiting and diarrhea), if the liquid detergent were to find its way into the lungs, it can cause breathing problems and severe complications. The liquid from laundry pods can also cause burns to the eye and skin.

Please DO NOT ever attempt to ingest laundry pods- it is dangerous and could cause you serious harm.
If someone bites into a detergent pod, remove it immediately. Wash the face and hands with plenty of water and gently wipe out the mouth. DO NOT induce vomiting. Then call the Texas Poison Center Network at 1-800-222-1222.

If pod contents squirt into someone’s eye, rinse the eye with gently running water for 15-30 minutes. Then, call the Texas Poison Center Network at 1-800-222-1222 for advice.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Poison Safety Holiday Tips from the Texas Poison Center Network

It is the most wonderful time of year! The magic of Christmas and Santa brings lots of joy this season, but it can also bring nausea, vomiting or other bodily reactions if you are not careful. The Texas Poison Center Network wants to help you avoid any unintentional poisonings, so check out our holiday poison safety tips below to keep you & your loved ones safe!

Food Safety

·         Wash Your Hands! Whenever you are preparing food, it is so important to wash your hands before, during and after to prevent food poisoning. (And spreading germs!)

·         Always make sure to cook food well to reduce potential poisoning- poultry-180 degrees F, beef-160 degrees F and pork-160 degrees F.  Cover and reheat leftovers to 165 degrees Fahrenheit before serving.

·         Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.. If food is left out at room temperature for more than two hours, bacteria can grow and sickness can ensue. This means leftovers should be put up right away.

·         Never use unvented fuel-burning devices in a home or apartment, because carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning can occur. Read our blog on CO poison safety here.

·         Remember, contaminated food is not always evident. If you are unsure if an item is still okay to eat, it is probably best to throw it out. Safety first!

Potentially Dangerous D├ęcor

Tree Ornaments: Some ornaments are made of very thin metal or glass. If a child were to ingest part of an ornament, it could potentially cause them to choke. Practice safety first when choosing ornaments to use on your tree with little ones in the home. You can find lots of ornaments offered in stores that are unbreakable and best to use around children.

Gift Wrap: Overall, gift wrapping paper is pretty safe. But it is possible for some colored gift wrap or foil to contain lead. Don’t let babies chew on paper as a precaution.

Holiday Plants

Poinsettia: The poinsettia’s reputation is worse than it merits. In reality, the poinsettia is a minimally poisonous plant. If ingested in very large amounts it may cause varying degrees of irritation to the mouth, nausea or vomiting. The sap on the plant can also cause a skin rash, so when handling these plants, make sure to wash your hands with soap and water afterwards as a precaution.

Holly berries: While these berries are visually appealing, if ingested they can cause a stomach ache, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Keep these berries out of reach of children.

Mistletoe: If this plant is ingested, it can leave you feeling a little crummy. Common symptoms of ingestion can include vomiting, diarrhea and stomach ache.

Remember, as always, if you or someone you know is potentially poisoned, please do not hesitate to contact the Poison Control hotline at 1-800-222-1222. We hope everyone has a safe holiday season!

Monday, November 20, 2017

TPCN Spotlight: Specialist in Poison Information (SPI)

1. Tell me your history with poison  control and how you became a SPI. (Length of time worked  there/background/passion for this, etc.)

Hi I am Misty Wilcken RN CSPI-2. I completed my Bachelor of chemistry in 2001.  My first job  out of college was as a synthetic organic chemist.  I  worked for UTMB in the Synthetic Chemistry Core Laboratory  for 5 years prior to changing my career.  I completed UTMB BAC2 accelerated nursing school and received a second  Bachelor degree in Nursing.  I started my nursing career working for Shriners Burn pediatric ICU. 

Due to hurricane Ike, I was forced to find another position.  I had hoped to  find something challenging that involved the community and  children, and I found just that when I was hired on as a  Specialist in Poison Information in 2009.  My background  has allowed me to excel in this field.  I love calming  panicked moms, and advising other health care professionals  with regards to things like envenimations, ingestions,  drug overdoses, and chemical exposures. I also love learning  something new every day in the broad fields of pharmacology  and toxicology. 

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.

 Some of the scariest stories are people putting chemicals or drugs in  food containers or in beverage bottles.  Kids drinking lighter fluid thinking it is water or tiki torch fuel thinking it is apple juice.  I also had a lady call about her husband eating hair relaxer.  She had put in a sour  cream container, and had left it in the fridge, and he put  it on his baked potato.

I also remember a case where a dad  had picked up his brothers impounded car and cleaned it  out.  He put what he thought was just Gatorade in his  fridge and the kids drank it.  The kids ended up in the ER intoxicated off ecstasy.  They had to get a hold of the  brother in jail to find out what was in the Gatorade. People  bring stuff home from work like cleaners, and pesticides in  water bottles and someone drinks it. It is very common for people to put bleach in a cup to clean it and then turn around and drink it on accident.

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

 A good part of our service involves triage.  We try to keep people  out of the emergency rooms if possible.  Half of our calls  are concerning 1-3 year olds who think pills are candy, and all  liquids are beverages.  They get the pill minders, and pill  bottles, and at least try the pills.  They also try to  drink nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol, bleach, hydrogen  peroxide, and bottles of liquid medicine.  We advise the  parents what to watch for and decide if they should go to  the emergency room for observation and possible treatment.  We are also  here to answer questions about medication errors, other accidental ingestion's, bites and stings,  and drug interactions.

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

 I enjoy talking people through their often  scary situations, and saving them a trip to the ER, if  possible.  I am glad to be a resource for other medical  professionals when they call for consultation, and sometimes  helping them save a life.  I like learning about the drugs,  plants, critters, and chemicals. There is something new I  have to research almost every day.  I also like that we keep track of the cause and effect, so that we can better  treat these situations in the future.

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

We are an important resource for the public  and for health care professionals.  We save a lot of money  in unnecessary ER visits and are a reliable source of information.  We are available 24 hours to answer questions and give advice. We put a lot of people's minds at ease.  They  look stuff up online and panic, and then call us to get a  professional opinion.



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.