Monday, August 18, 2014

What You Need to Know about Brown Recluse Spider Bites

During the summer months you tend to see more spiders. One spider, that we don’t see very often but is a very dangerous spider, is the brown recluse spider also known as the fiddle-back spider. The brown recluse is a poisonous spider that can cause tissue death at the bite site.  Children and adults both can become ill when bitten.    

How to Recognize a Brown Recluse
This type of spider is very unique. While most spiders have eight eyes, a brown recluse only has six. Its coloring consists of a sandy brown with the violin-shaped marking being a little darker than the rest of its body. You will also see many fine, short hairs on its body.

Where Can You Find a Brown Recluse?
These spiders like to build webs in dark places that haven’t been recently disturbed. Here are some examples of places you might find them: rotting bark, attics, basements, closets, behind pictures, shoes, cardboard boxes, garages, etc.

A person might not always be aware that they have been bitten, because the initial bite does not always hurt right away. Here are some symptoms that could occur from a brown recluse bite:

v  Chills

v  Nausea

v  Sweating

v  Fever

v  Rotting of the Skin around the Bite

If you think you or a loved one might have been bitten, please do not hesitate to contact your local Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 for free expert advice, 24 hours a day.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Dangers of Using Powdered Caffeine

Powdered caffeine is a new item on the market that can be extremely dangerous. It is important for parents, teachers and consumers to be aware of this product.

Recently, the death of an Ohio teenager prompted the Food and Drug Administration to warn consumers about the dangers of consuming pure powdered caffeine sold online. Even a teaspoon of the powder could be lethal.  Shockingly, one teaspoon is equivalent to roughly 25 cups of coffee.

Since the recent death of an 18-year-old boy, the FDA is now investigating caffeine powder and is considering taking regulatory action.

To keep loved ones safe, please keep this information in mind.

1.    It is unregulated, cheap and easy to unregulated, unlike caffeine added to soda. Those who drink coffee, tea or soda may be aware of caffeine's less serious effects, like nervousness and tremors, and may not realize that the powdered form is a pure chemical. The difference between a safe amount and a lethal dose of caffeine in these powdered products is very small, according to FDA officials. Symptoms of caffeine overdose or toxicity include rapid or erratic heartbeat, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea and disorientation. Please share this information with your friends and family. For questions, call the experts at 1-800-222-1222. Caffeine powder is considered a dietary supplement therefore it is not subject to FDA regulations.

2.    It can be lethal even in small doses.

3.    Caffeine overdose symptoms can be very serious. Symptoms can include: rapid or erratic heartbeat, vomiting, confusion, diarrhea, trouble breathing, hallucinations, and seizures.

If you or a loved one has ingested too much of this powdered caffeine or for more information, please contact your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. We’re here to answer your call 24/7.   

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Case of the Pesky Mosquito

Summertime is upon us- the heat is rising and the mosquitoes are everywhere!  Mosquitoes are known as insects that can bite you, leaving a painful and often itchy swell mark. These tiny little insects have a lot going for them. Not only do they have chemical and visual sensors that help them find their prey, but mosquitoes also have heat sensors. 

With all these sensors, it is not a surprise that people get bitten by mosquitoes more often than not. While most mosquito bites are harmless, in rare cases they can cause a large area to swell significantly, be sore and very red. If you have any questions from a mosquito bite, please call your poison control center for more information at 1-800-222-1222. 

How to prevent mosquito bites

Your best bet in protecting your skin from mosquitoes is using insect repellent. For a list of recommended repellents, please view this link:
Other ways to avoid mosquito bites include wearing long-sleeved clothing and eliminating any standing or stagnant water around your home. Standing water creates a breeding ground for these pesky insects. Another good tip is limiting your time outdoors in the evening time as that is when they are most prevalent.

Here are some “fun” facts about mosquitoes:

·         Mosquito is Spanish for “little fly”

·         Only female mosquitoes bite

Remember, the Texas Poison Control Network is here to help you! If you find yourself in any possible poisoning situation, or have a question about poison, please do not hesitate to call 1-800-222-1222 for free expert advice, 24 hours a day!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Keep Pool Chemicals Out of Reach and Locked Away

As many people know, in order to help keep pools clean, chemicals are added to the water to kill germs and bacteria. While these chemicals help keep the water healthy for recreational use, they can be extremely dangerous if they are not handled or stored properly away from children.

A recent study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed almost 5,000 emergency visits in the year 2012 were associated with pool chemical poisonings.  The most common poisonings included inhalation of vapors and fumes.  Other common poisonings include handling pool chemicals without proper use of protective equipment such as gloves and goggles.
Here are some useful tips to makes sure you and your family stay safe this summer and avoid chemical pool injuries.

v  Keep chemicals away from children by storing them up and away from a child’s reach.

v  When handling pool chemicals, dress appropriately by wearing safety goggles and gloves.

v  Make sure you handle in a well-ventilated area so that you do not breathe in any toxic fumes.

v  Follow the directions exactly to minimize accidents or splashing of chemicals.

Remember, if you come in contact with pool chemicals or believe you might have been poisoned, please contact the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. For more information on pool chemical safety, please visit the CDC’s website at

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Using Too Much Acetaminophen Can Be Dangerous

Acetaminophen is found in more medications than people realize. It’s the active ingredient in over 650 different over the counter and prescription medicines. This medication is primarily used to relieve pain and reduce fever. It is also combined with other ingredients in various medications that help treat colds, the flu and allergies.

In prescriptions, you can find acetaminophen combined with other ingredients that help relieve moderate to severe pain. Recently, the FDA put out an alert to remind healthcare professionals to stop dispensing combination drug products that contain more than 325 mg of acetaminophen.

Many times, people will unknowingly take medications to treat other symptoms not realizing that several medications they might be taking all have acetaminophen as an active ingredient. This can cause SERIOUS complications including liver damage if more than directed is ingested.

Acetaminophen overdose is now the most common cause of acute liver failure in the United States. Protect your health today by being aware of what medications you are putting into your body. If you ever think you or someone you know has taken too much acetaminophen or any other medication, please do not hesitate to contact the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Dangers of Prescription Drug Abuse in Teens

Imagine you are talking to your significant other about a prescription medication you take that makes you really drowsy. You don’t realize it, but your teenager is in the next room and overhears you. She hasn’t been sleeping well lately and she thinks maybe your medication can help her sleep better. She secretly starts taking your medication at night when she has trouble sleeping.

Would you consider this safe?
It is important to know that it is NEVER safe to take a prescription medication that is not prescribed to you. These days, prescription medications are a lot easier to get a hold of than illegal drugs which makes teens more inclined to get them. But just because they might be easier to get does not mean that they are safe to take.

Prescription drug abuse is a major issue facing the United States today. Not only can it lead to drug poisoning but also drug addiction. Prescriptions most commonly abused include opioids, central nervous system depressants, and stimulants. These drugs essentially act as poisons in the body depending on the amount a person ingests. This means abusing prescription medications can be fatal.
Where are teens getting these drugs?

Most teens are getting prescription medications from medicine cabinets of family, friends and acquaintances.  A very small portion of teens are getting them from doctors, pharmacists or over the internet.

What can you do to help prevent drug abuse/drug poisonings?
If you are a parent, talk to your kids about medication drug abuse and the dangers associated with misuse. Teens who learn about the risks of drug use are 50% less likely to use drugs according to It is also a good idea to safeguard medications by keeping them in a secure place.

If you or someone you know becomes ill from medication use, misuse or abuse, please contact the Poison Control Center help line for assistance. The Texas Poison Center Network is available 24/7 to help with any questions or concerns. All calls are answered by a nurse, doctor or pharmacist. Program this number into your phone for when you need it: 1-800-222-1222. The call is free, peace of mind is priceless!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

TPCN Spotlight: Melody Gardner, North Texas Poison Control Center

This week’s blog will showcase one of our six poison control center managing directors. Here you will find out why they love their job and why poison control services are important to them.

Melody Gardner is the North Texas Poison Control Center Managing Director.

Tell me your history with poison control. How long have you worked there/what is your background: I have a Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration and Nursing Administration. I started my career as a Registered Nurse and then completed training to become a Trauma Nurse Clinician at Parkland hospital, where I cared for some of the most critically ill trauma and burn patients in the North Texas area. I have been at the North Texas Poison Center for four years, starting out as a manager and then moving into my current position as Managing Director in 2012.

What do you think is one of the most important aspects of poison control services? The Poison Centers not only assist with day to day poisoning situations, both in the home and in health care settings, but we also actively monitor any new trends, such as the new designer drugs popular amongst teens. Poison Centers are often the ones who hear of new, dangerous products before anyone else. We also are experts in disaster preparedness and handle phone calls related to potential dangers at large events in our area.

What do you enjoy most about your job and why? As a parent, I know how important it is to get the quickest, most reliable information to care for your child. I enjoy my job because by overseeing the operations of the Poison Center, I feel like I help contribute to making a difference in the lives of the people we serve. I believe in what the staff at the Poison Center does on a daily basis, because oftentimes, the relief you can sense from a mother’s voice on the phone is a reward in itself.

What do you think the public needs to know regarding poison control? The public should know that no question is stupid and our highly trained staff is not here to judge you, they are here to help and offer you the best medical advice they can. The call is free, peace of mind is priceless! We have doctors, nurses and pharmacists available 24/7/365.

Share a funny story here that might have happened on the job. One of our specialists received a call from a school nurse asking about how to clean up after a student had a case of smallpox. We questioned her about the case and discussed that it probably wasn’t smallpox (since that disease has been eradicated in the U.S.) After she insisted that it was smallpox, our specialist used a code in our computer system that indicates there was a case of smallpox. About 10 minutes later, I was receiving phone calls through the real-time surveillance system at the CDC asking what was going on in Texas with small pox. Needless to say, it made for an interesting discussion.