Monday, April 25, 2016

How Poisonous are Weed Killers?

Springtime is upon us which means lots of pesky weeds will be more prevalent as will the use of weed killers. Weed killers are popular to maintain lawns and landscaping. But how safe are children and pets being around these chemicals? 

Thousands of exposures are reported to U.S. poison centers every year. Fortunately, the majority of cases have mild to no symptoms. However, major effects or even death can occur. These cases usually involve deliberate, large ingestions. But there are also inadvertent or exploratory ingestions by children that generally only cause mild irritation of the exposed tissue in areas such as the gastrointestinal tract, skin, eyes, or respiratory tract.

The two major classes of herbicides in the U.S. are glyphosates and chlorophenoxy compounds. Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide, and is the most widely used herbicide in the US. It is available under a variety of trade names, including Roundup. Glyphosate is related to the amino acid glycine and kills plants by interfering with the synthesis of other amino acids. The addition of other chemicals to glyphosate mixtures (such as diquat and surfactants) are responsible for much of the reported toxicity. Exposure is common because of the popularity of these products, but severe toxicity is rare.
Ingestion of products containing glyphosate can cause gastrointestinal effects (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain), oral pain, and slight sedation. Skin exposure can cause it to become red and irritated along with “goose bumps”. These products are not expected to produce significant adverse effects when users follow the recommended instructions. They generally state that, “Pets such as cats and dogs should remain out of the treatment area until it is thoroughly dry. Once the application area has dried, your pets may reenter the area. Although they may eat a small amount of grass, they will not be able to eat enough of the product to cause a health hazard.”

Chlorophenoxy compounds (also known as 2,4-D compounds) are other chemicals commonly found in weed killers. Several hundred commercial products contain these compounds in various forms, concentrations, and combinations. They are often mixed into commercial fertilizers to restrict the growth of broadleaf weeds. Chlorophenoxy compounds have been shown to cause skin irritation with skin contact; airway irritation with inhalation; and nausea, vomiting, and increased acid levels with large ingestions.
For those who prefer non-chemical options for weed control: manually pulling out weeds by the roots to prevent regrowth, mulching, and possibly by applying acetic acid like vinegar to unwanted plants may be considered.

Overall, weed killers intended for residential use are considered safe when used appropriately. It is important to read all instructions on the product’s labeling and allow the product to completely dry before permitting children or pets to enter the lawn. As with all chemicals, be sure to store in the original container and out of reach from children. The Texas Poison Center Network is a trustworthy and easily accessible resource to take advantage of if an inadvertent exposure occurs, to find out if a trip to the Emergency Department is necessary as well as just to ask any questions.  Specialist at the poison center can be reached 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by calling 1-800-222-1222.

Monday, April 11, 2016

CSEC Seeking Public Member for the Poison Control Coordinating Committee

Do you think you have what it takes to make a difference in poison control? We hope you do! The Texas Commission on State Emergency Communications (CSEC) is seeking an interested individual to serve as its public appointee to the state's Poison Control Coordinating Committee (PCCC). While the position is unpaid and a volunteer position, it comes with a lot of benefits in other ways.

“It is wonderful to be a part of a team that works toward the health and safety of Texans.  The Poison Control Network provides a vital service for Texans in poison emergencies,” previous public member Grace Chimene said. “As the Public Member to the Poison Control Coordinating Committee, you will have an opportunity to provide an outsider's viewpoint and a public perspective to help coordinate TPCN services across the state.”

The 81st Texas Legislature created the committee (House Bill 1093) for the purposes of coordinating the activities of the state's six regional poison control centers and advising the Commission. The committee is composed of representatives of the CSEC, the Department of State Health Services (DSHS), each of the six Regional Poison Control Centers, and one public member appointed by CSEC. The committee typically meets monthly, usually by conference call.

“Poison emergencies happen fast.  I took pride in the volunteer service I provided as the Public Member to the Poison Control Coordinating Committee,” Chimene said. “This is a wonderful opportunity to help an organization whose goal is to be accessible 24 hours a day with well-trained medical professionals available to help in a poison emergency.”

This position is very important to the PCCC and as the Public Member, your opinion will provide valuable insight and understanding from the public’s perspective. This position does not require any training, but if you have training in clinical medicine, pharmacology, or nursing, this would provide even more value to the PCCC.

“As a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, I understood the importance of the services provided by the Poison Control Network,” Chimene said. “My little patients and their families rely on this emergency service to be effective, well-coordinated, and high quality.”

If you are interested in finding out more about this position or are interested in serving, please contact CSEC’s Executive Director Kelli Merriweather at (512) 305-6938, or

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Why Alcohol and Medications Don’t Mix

It usually starts out harmless. You take your prescribed medication once you get home from work. Then a friend calls and invites you to dinner. You meet for dinner and decide to have a couple of glasses of wine. But did you know that alcohol and medicines often don’t mix? What most people don’t realize is that alcohol mixed with certain medications can be a very dangerous combination.

Combining alcohol and medicines, whether prescription or over-the-counter, can lead to life-threatening consequences depending on the medicine, the amount of alcohol consumed, medical conditions, body size and age.

Alcohol can interact with medicines in several ways:

  • Medications, such as the antibiotic metronidazole, may prevent the metabolism of alcohol and cause a “disulfiram-like” reaction that includes abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and flushing.  This reaction has even been reported to cause sudden death.   
  • Alcohol can make the risk of drowsiness and impaired motor function caused by medicine more likely.
  • Alcohol can increase the risk of medicine side effects, such as lowered blood pressure and stomach irritation.     

Not everyone is affected the same way. Because of a smaller body size, a woman who drinks the same amount as a man will have a higher alcohol level in her blood, making her more at risk for an interaction. Elderly people may experience more drowsiness and motor impairment than their younger counterparts when they combine alcohol with another medicine that causes drowsiness.  People who regularly consume large quantities of alcohol are at more risk of some types of interactions than those who have only an occasional drink.  

The Texas Poison Center Network wants you to keep these in mind when tending to your medications:

  • If a medicine causes you to be drowsy, assume that it will interact with alcohol to make you even drowsier and more likely to be impaired. Examples include cough and cold medicine and over-the-counter sleep aids.  
  • If you are taking a prescription drug for anxiety, stress, depression, mood control, seizure control, or pain control, always assume that alcohol will interact with it. In addition to increasing the risk for drowsiness, dizziness and impairment, mixing alcohol with these medicines can place you at risk for life-threatening breathing difficulties and other dangerous effects.  People taking these drugs should not drink beverages containing alcohol. 
  • If you are taking any medicine to treat stomach pain, be aware that alcohol can make stomach pain worse and make the drug less effective. 
  • If you are taking any medicine that causes you to have stomach pain or nausea, drinking alcohol will likely make your stomach pain and nausea worse. 
  • Some blood pressure drugs, when mixed with alcohol, increase the chance for your blood pressure to drop too low. Check with your doctor or pharmacist for details about the specific blood pressure medicine you are taking. 
  • Some diabetes drugs, when mixed with alcohol, can make your blood sugar fall too low. 
  • When mixed with alcohol, some antibiotics and diabetes drugs can cause flushing, nausea, vomiting, confusion, low blood pressure and abnormal heart rhythms. These medicines usually have a sticker on the prescription bottle warning against consuming alcohol.

Remember, this is not a full list of interactions between medicines and alcohol. If you take any medicine, always talk with a doctor or pharmacist before drinking alcohol. If someone does experience effects from combining alcohol and medicine, call the Texas Poison Center Network at 1-800-222-1222 for expert medical help 24/7.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Become More Aware During National Poison Prevention Week 2016

When people think of poisonings, they usually think of children putting something toxic like a toilet cleaner into their mouths. What most people do not realize is that poisonings can also include mixing the wrong medications, being bitten by a poisonous snake or spider, and coming into contact with silent killers like carbon monoxide. While these can sound scary, the good news is most of them can be prevented with the right education and choices.

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 54th 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.

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 the Nation’s poison centers. And according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, approximately 90 percent of these poisonings are happening at home with 51 percent of them involving children under the age of six.

While thoughts of an accidental poisoning can be daunting, the poison control toll-free help line is here to help when you need it the most!

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 4 to 5 minutes or less.
  • Calling 1-800-222-1222 from anywhere in the United States will connect you to a 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 household furnaces 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 poisoned, always remember to remain calm. Then call the toll-free Poison Help line right away at 1-800-222-1222. Stay on the phone with the poison control specialist and follow all the instructions you are given. For more information on accidental poisonings and what you can do to protect yourself and loved ones, please visit the Texas Poison Center Network website at

Friday, January 15, 2016

An Important Reminder on the Dangers of Button Batteries

A year ago we ran a blog on button batteries and the dangers they pose to young children. In recent months there have been news stories on the dangers of button batteries. Most recently, a two-year-old little girl lost her life. You can read her story here.

An example of how a button battery becomes
lodged in the esophagus.
It’s important for everyone to understand the dangers that button batteries pose to young children so let’s start with the basics. Button batteries (aka disc batteries), are 8-23 mm in diameter and are found in a variety of household products such as hearing aids and handheld devices. But they are also found in many toys that children receive during the holidays. Because of their common presence in the home and due to their small size, there is a risk that button batteries may be swallowed by children. (The majority of button battery ingestions involve children 0-5 years in age.)

These batteries pose a danger when they get stuck in the esophagus, leading to serious injury and in rare cases, death. Once lodged, the chemicals in the battery start burning the surrounding tissue. Poison control centers across the United States report that about 3,500 button batteries are swallowed each year. In Texas alone, there have been over 2,200 cases since 2000.

If a button battery is ingested, symptoms can include vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, diarrhea, difficulty breathing and swallowing. Many times, swallowed batteries pass through the intestines and safely exit the body. However in some cases, they can easily get lodged in the esophagus and cause serious damage. It is best to keep button batteries up, away and out of reach of children. Parents should also secure the battery compartments of products in which button batteries are used and never leave batteries lying around loose or allow children to play with them.

If your child ingests a battery, you should immediately call a poison center at 1-800-222-1222.

Dial 9-1-1 immediately if someone: 

•Stops breathing. 


•Has a seizure.

And remember to never induce vomiting. For more information, call your local poison center at 1-800-222-1222. Poison centers are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year for poisoning emergencies and for informational calls, too.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Know Your Limits and Practice Safety First When Ringing in the New Year

As December comes to an end, everyone gets increasingly more excited to ring in the New Year. Perfect party dresses and festive decorations will be bought for this special occasion. And while it is a wonderful time to celebrate, it is also a time to remember how dangerous drinking too much alcohol can be to the body.

Some will suffer adverse consequences that range from falls to traffic crashes to poisonings. Sadly, we often put ourselves and others at risk because we don't understand how alcohol affects us during an evening of celebratory drinking.

What are signs of alcohol poisoning?
  • Mental confusion
  • Unresponsive
  • Seizures / Stupor
  • Throwing up
  • Hypothermia - low body temp, cold / clammy skin
  • Erratic or slow breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Pale or bluish skin color
By practicing safety first (and refraining from drinking in excess), you can eliminate many of these fears. What can you do to stay safe and help others?

  • Know the danger signals.
  • Do not wait for all symptoms.
  • Be aware that a person who has passed out may die.
  • Call 911 and stay with the person.
In 2011, the Texas Legislature passed a law called the 911 Lifeline Law. That law says a person under 21 won't be charged by the police for possessing or consuming alcohol if the person calls 911 because someone might have alcohol poisoning.

This limited immunity applies only to the first person to call for medical assistance, only if the caller remains on the scene until medical assistance arrives and cooperates with EMS and law enforcement. This law was intended to encourage young people to do the right thing and save a life. For more information please visit here.

Remember that mistakes happen and you should never be afraid to call 9-1-1 for help! And if you are not sure if someone has been poisoned, please do not hesitate to contact the Texas Poison Center Network at 1-800-222-1222. There are nurses and pharmacists available 24/7 to help you with your poison needs. We hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Celebrating the Holidays with Food Safety in Mind

It’s the most wonderful time of year! No matter what holidays you celebrate or who you celebrate them with, there is one thing in common with all holiday celebrations and that is delicious food. But the food might not be so delicious, and could cause quite the stir in your belly, if you don’t follow some friendly advice from the Texas Poison Center educators!

Did you know that one in six Americans could get sick from food poisonings this year alone? That’s roughly 48 million people. And while most people will recover, some serious side effects can occur from certain bacteria such as kidney failure, chronic arthritis, and brain and nerve damage. (Food-borne illness usually happens when bacteria grows quickly in food that has been improperly stored or prepared.)

Make sure your loved ones stay food-poisoning free by following the basic guidelines used with these four steps: Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill.

Clean: Always wash hands and surfaces often. This will help eliminate cross contamination of bacteria.

·         Wash hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after handling food.
·         Wash cutting boards, utensils and dishes with hot soap after preparing each food item.
·         Use paper towels instead of a dish cloth to help eliminate bacteria transferring.
·         Rinse fruits and veggies under running tap water, including the skins and rinds that do not usually get eaten.

Separate: Cross contamination is how bacteria is usually spread which is why separating foods is so important. (Check out this fact sheet here:

·         Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs from other foods not only at home in the refrigerator, but even when you pick them up at the store.
·         Use a cutting board for fresh produce and a separate cutting board for raw meat, poultry and seafood.
·         Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held uncooked meat, poultry and seafood.

Cook: Make sure to cook dishes at the proper temperature.

·         Use a food thermometer to make sure that food is cooked to the right temperature for that dish.
·         Cook roasts and steaks to a minimum of 145°F. All poultry should reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F as measured with a food thermometer.
·         Cook ground meat, where bacteria can spread during grinding, to at least 160°F.
·         Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm, not runny.
·         When microwaving food, make sure there are no cold spots in the food, by turning the dish frequently in the microwave, as well as keeping the dish covered. Stir occasionally.

Chill: Refrigerate in a timely fashion.

·         Cold temperatures slow the growth of bacteria so keeping food cold is extremely important. Keep the refrigerator at 40F or below.
·         Never let raw meat, poultry, eggs, cooked food or cut fresh fruits or vegetables sit at room temperature more than two hours before putting them in the refrigerator or freezer.
·         Avoid defrosting food at room temperature. Food needs to be kept safe during thawing which means food should only be thawed: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave. And remember, if you thaw in cold water or in the microwave, you need to cook the food immediately after.
·         Marinate food in the refrigerator.

If you still manage to get sick, common symptoms of serious food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever. If this happens to you or a loved one, please do not hesitate to contact one of our specialist at the Texas Poison Center Network for help at 1-800-222-1222. They are open round-the-clock, even on holidays.