Thursday, March 16, 2017

Raise Awareness during Poison Prevention Week 2017

When people think of poisonings, they usually think of young children getting into medications or ingesting a toxic substance such as a cleaning supply usually found underneath the kitchen sink. Many people are not aware that poisonings can also include mixing the wrong medications or taking too much of a medication, being bitten by a poisonous snake or spider, and/or coming into contact with silent killers like carbon monoxide. Each year 250,000 calls regarding potential poisonings are reported in Texas alone. With the help of public education, the Texas Poison Center Network hopes to bring the number of poisonings down and raise awareness about the free poison prevention hotline 1-800-222-1222 

In 1961, the United States designated the third full week of March as National Poison Prevention Week, a week dedicated to teaching, educating and raising awareness about poisonings. This year marks the 55th year and acts as a reminder that poisonings are currently the leading cause of injury death in the country. But as with any injury, it can be preventable and a poison expert is only a phone call away and ready to assist you.

What is considered a poison?
A poison is any substance, including medications, which can be harmful to your body if too much is ingested, inhaled, injected or absorbed through the skin. Accidental poisoning can occur when a person unintentionally takes too much of a substance and does not mean to cause harm.
Poisonings are more common than you think. Currently, more than two million poisonings are reported each year to all the poison centers in the US. And according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), approximately 90 percent of these poisonings are happening at home with 51 percent of them involving children under the age of six.

Here are some poison facts and tips to remember:
  • In children ages six and younger, the most common exposure is to medicines, plants, pesticides and cleaning products.
  • Child-resistant packages are not childproof. Most two-year olds can open a child-resistant container in 3 minutes or less.
  • Calling 1-800-222-1222 from anywhere in the United States will connect you to your local poison center.  
  • Keep all poisons locked up and out of reach of children.
  • Never refer to medicine (prescription, vitamins or otherwise) as candy as children may mistake tiny pills for yummy candy.
  • Get fuel burning appliances checked yearly and make sure working carbon monoxide detectors are in the house and checked multiple times a year. This is especially important for the winter months.
What to Do in the Event of an Accidental Poisoning

In the event that you or someone with you has been potentially poisoned, always remember to first remain calm. Then immediately call the toll-free Poison Help line right away at 1-800-222-1222. Follow all the instructions you are given by the poison control specialist. Many times, the poison control specialist will call back to make sure that things are ok and there is no need for further assistance. For more information on accidental poisonings and what you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones, please visit the Texas Poison Center Network website at www.poisoncontrol.org.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Beware of Hyland Teething Tablets Containing Toxic Substance Belladonna


When babies start to get their teeth, it can be a painful adjustment with many sleepless nights. This can be a hard time for parents too, which is why many have chosen teething tablets as a way to help relieve this pain for their little ones. Teething tablets are homeopathic in nature and are what some parents turn to instead of over-the-counter medications like Tylenol or Advil. But the brand of teething tablets, Hyland’s, recently found inconsistent amounts of belladonna, a toxic substance, in the product and the amount claimed on the label was not always correct. The FDA found that some tablets had far over the amount the label reported.

The Texas Poison Center Network wants you to be aware of the dangers of using Hyland’s teething tablets. The tablets can pose unnecessary risk to infants and children, therefore, the FDA is urging consumers to not use these products. Homeopathic tablets have not been approved or evaluated by the FDA for safety and effectiveness.  It is best to dispose of any teething tablets you might have at home. If your child is teething, the best remedy to help get through this time is a cold teething ring to numb the oral tissue.

If your child has been using Hyland’s teething tablets with belladonna and experiences any difficulty breathing, has excessive sleepiness, or is unusually agitated, please contact your local poison center in Texas at 1-800-222-1222.  Safety is our first concern! As always, remember to keep any medication, even if homeopathic in nature, locked up and away from children.

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.