Monday, March 19, 2018

Raise Awareness during Poison Prevention Week 2018

This week marks Poison Prevention Week 2018 and the Texas Poison Center Network is here to help educate & keep your friends and family poison-free!  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 56th year and acts as a reminder that poisonings are currently the leading cause of injury related death in the country. But as with most injuries, many can be prevented and for those that aren’t, a poison expert is only a phone call away and ready to assist you.

Each year 250,000 calls regarding potential poisonings are received by Texas poison centers alone. In 2016, poison centers in the US received approximately 2,159 million calls on poison exposures. That’s one poison exposure call every 14.6 seconds! Roughly 56% of these calls were human exposure cases involving drugs and medications. Other exposures included household and personal care products, plants, mushrooms, pesticides, animal bites and stings, carbon monoxide, and many other types of non-pharmaceutical substances. Although exposure by ingestion accounted for 79% of these cases, people were also exposed to potentially dangerous poisons through other routes like the lungs, skin, and eyes.
Shockingly, more than 90% of the poisoning deaths occurred among individuals over the age of 20 and involved medications/drugs. This is actually the most common exposure among adults and a good majority of these involved opiates. According to the Centers for Disease Control, opioid overdoses have quadrupled in the U.S. since 1999.

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 without wanting to cause themselves harm.

Poisonings are more common than you think. Currently, more than two million poisonings are reported each year to 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%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 exposures are to medicines, personal care 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 often mistake tiny pills for yummy candy.
  • Get fuel burning appliances checked yearly and make sure working carbon monoxide detectors are installed in your home and checked twice 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 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 okay 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

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

TPCN Spotlight Blog: Central Texas Hollie Blair

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

I have been at CRPC for 23 years in June. I previously worked retail pharmacy with H.E.B for 5 years. I developed arthritis which eventually kept me from being able to stand on my feet for long periods of time. CTPC was just starting up at BSW, and my name was given to the director, Doug Borys, by someone at the UT College of Pharmacy. It was the perfect combination of clinical and intrapersonal skill.

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.
I had two little boys who decided to paint each other with blue house paint. They realized they would probably get in trouble, so they got into the bathtub to wash the paint off. Mom walked in and saw that they were using Ajax to try and remove the paint from their skin. She laughed because they were red, white and blue.

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

When you’ve been here as long as most of us have been, nothing is likely to surprise us. Please do not hesitate to call even if you think it may be embarrassing.  

4. What do you enjoy most about your job and why?
Every day is different and you continue to learn new things every day!

5. Why do you think it is important for people to have poison control as a resource for emergency help?
Many people cannot or will not see a doctor because they cannot afford it. Our help is free and often we can help them without having to send them to a doctor. Another reason we are a good resource is because we are open 24/7/365. We never close!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Dangerous Trend: The Abuse of Anti-Diarrhea Medications

What has been referenced as the poor man’s methadone, better known as anti-diarrhea medications, has been making headlines recently for people potentially abusing it as a means to get high. The ongoing opioid epidemic could be a reason for the abuse, as addicts are seeking cheap alternatives to get the same high or feeling they get from misusing opioids.

Why does this matter? Anti-diarrhea medications contain the active ingredient loperamide and, when consumed in large amounts, can give the user a high. But this high can come with deadly consequences. In the last year alone, several deaths throughout the country have been linked to irregular heartbeats caused by the misuse of these medications.
The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) recently stated they are aware of these cases and the intentional misuse and/or abuse of the anti-diarrhea product loperamide to treat symptoms of opioid withdrawal or produce euphoric effects and are looking to take necessary steps to stop this from occurring. The Texas Poison Center Network has received at least 30 calls over the past few years regarding this problem.

Although the anti-diarrhea drug is safe in doses used to treat diarrhea, in large quantities it can cause serious side effects. Some of those side effects include breathing and heart problems that can result in death.
This is another reminder that all drugs, including prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, can be dangerous when not used as directed. If you or someone you know is dealing with a potential poisoning, please contact the Texas Poison Center Network immediately at 1-800-222-1222.

Friday, February 2, 2018

TPCN Spotlight: SPI Jessica, West Texas Region

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

My name is Jessica, and I have been working at the West Texas Regional Poison Center for two years. My initial training (and I say initial because the training is for a lifetime) as a new Specialist in Poison Information (SPI) consisted of reading toxicology books and articles and attending conferences and presentations to help me understand more about poisonings. After feeling like you are back in school, practice on the phones is next. After about a year of being a Specialist in Poison Information, I completed all the requirements to take the certification exam. Now I can say that I am a Certified Specialist in Poison Information ready to continue learning and helping our community.

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 a lot of interesting calls that we receive at the poison center. The stories that make an impact in my daily job are the calls when we are able to reduce the caller’s anxiety and ease the situation with the right explanation and proper recommendations.

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

The nurses, pharmacists, and physicians who answer the calls at the poison center are well-trained and use their toxicology training and critical thinking skills every day in every call. There is not a master algorithm that will provide the answer for all exposures. Every call is different.  We have to ask a lot of questions to obtain as many details as possible to help the caller with their individual needs. Also, I would like to inform our community that our staff at the West Texas Regional Poison Center is 100% bilingual and we are ready to answer Spanish-speaking calls from all over Texas.  I have encountered situations, where the caller only speaks Spanish, and they are frightened of a language barrier on top of their poisoning concern. Therefore, when you are in doubt, always call the poison center. We are open 24/7.

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

One of the things that I enjoy the most about my job is that every SPI in the Texas Poison Center Network is very helpful.  As a new SPI, I always felt like we are working in the same building even though we were spread out all over Texas.  In addition, one of my favorite events is the Poison Jungle Safari where we get to go out to provide education for the community, especially for kids, in how to prevent poisoning. I enjoy this yearly event since I can have face-to-face interactions with the public and teach kids and parents that poison can be everywhere at any time. For example, we teach parents that children can easily mistake a bottle of vinegar with a bottle of apple juice, or how the color and shape of some medications are very similar to candy. Having these types of activities can help parents be more aware of the importance of keeping medications and cleaning products out of sight and out of children’s reach.
5. Why do you think it is important for people to have poison control as a resource for emergency help?

During my experience in the poison control center, I have learned that if the poison control center is consulted early in the treatment of a poison exposure, it can save unnecessary emergency room visits and ambulance transportation costs. For example, most of our calls that are regarding children with low to non-toxic exposures can be safely managed at home with proper recommendations and follow-up without the need to be seen in the emergency room or request an ambulance. The appropriate utilization of poison control centers makes an enormous impact on the healthcare system as a whole.



Friday, January 26, 2018

TPCN Spotlight: SPI Ricardo Hernandez

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

Been working at the South Texas Poison Center since December 2003. Aside from taking calls in English, I am also a designated Spanish call-taker. I am a Medical Doctor and I am also a Registered Nurse.

I’ve always had a passion for emergency settings and it was during my work in the ER that I called the poison center on a case. After the 2nd call to them, I was hooked. Actually I was intrigued with the amount of knowledge the SPI had. The rest is history.

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

I think the biggest thing for people to know is that those answering the phone are medical professionals from varying disciplines and these medical professionals bring a lot of experience with them. The other thing is that any and all calls are strictly confidential.

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

I enjoy the camaraderie between SPIs. We are all here to help someone but there are times we ask each other for help or for their medical opinion. I enjoy the way we all work together like a well-oiled machine. The other aspect is when a potential emergency situation is resolved and our input helped with that.

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

It helps in the fact that most people that are exposed to something with potential poisoning, most do not require medical attention. I always tell the caller if you need to go in for medical attention, I’ll be the first to tell you, if you don’t, I’ll be the first to tell you. Calling poison control helps people save time and money and avoid catching something while they wait to be seen by medical personnel. Oh and the call is FREE!

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!