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,


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.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Learn the Basics for keeping your Baby Poison-free during Baby Safety Month

It’s baby safety month and what better way to celebrate than to become more informed on how best to keep your baby out of harm’s way. Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) started baby safety month in 1983 as Expectant Mother’s Day. As time went on, the day became a weeklong celebration, until 1991, when it was acknowledged throughout the entire month of September.

There are many important things to remember when it comes to keeping babies safe from hidden or even unhidden dangers. At the Texas Poison Center Network, we compiled some of the most important issues when it comes to caring for babies and their safety. Check out our tips below:

·         The most common problem for age 0-6 months is medication errors. It is important to always use a measuring syringe or dropper when giving medication to a baby. Over-medicating can be very dangerous. If you are unsure how much medication to give your baby, please contact your pharmacist or physician or the poison center first.

·         Cabinets containing cleaning materials or other product that may be considered harmful if ingested should be locked up. If you are unable to lock the cabinets, then these items should be moved to an area that is out of sight and out of reach of young children.

·         Know the names of the plants you have in your home and in your yard. Check with poison control if you are not sure if a plant is poisonous or not. (1-800-222-1222)  If a plant is poisonous, remove it from your home or yard immediately to prevent anyone from accidentally ingest it.

·         Keep medications out of sight and out of reach of children. This includes vitamins, cough syrup, prescription and non-prescription medications and even herbal formulations.  All of these items can be appealing to small children; which is why it is so important to keep them locked up and away from prying eyes.

·         Make sure you stay updated on any product recalls, including food and baby items such as strollers and cribs. An additional step you can take is filling out the product registration cards when you purchase baby items. This way, if there is a recall of a product, you will be the first to know.

For more information on baby safety and poison control safety, please visit If you find you or someone you know in a poison emergency, or just have questions about poison, please do not hesitate to call us at 1-800-222-1222.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Seniors Are at Risk for Poisonings Too!

While many senior adults are not sure why they should be concerned about poison centers and poison prevention, the average amount of medicine – prescription, over-the-counter, vitamin and herbal – consumed by seniors continues to increase. At the same time, calls to the Texas Poison Center Network about seniors also have steadily increased for the past few years, and many of these calls concern medicines.

These tips can help keep senior adults poison-safe:

  • Keep an up-to-date list of all medicines a person takes. These include prescriptions, over-the-counter products, vitamins and herbals.
  • Share the list with all doctors and pharmacists to check for drug interactions. Surprisingly, even herbal supplements can interact with a prescription drug. Be sure to always check with a doctor before adding vitamins or herbal supplements to daily prescription medicines.
  • If possible, use the same pharmacy to fill all prescriptions. This also helps with avoiding negative drug interactions.
  • Keep all medicines in their original containers to avoid confusion with the type of medicine and dosage. This is especially important when acetaminophen is an ingredient because taking too much can cause liver damage. Many pain relievers and sleeping products include acetaminophen and labels may not be clear as to what they contain.
  • Always read the label prior to taking any medicine, and never try to take it in the dark or without glasses to avoid mistaking medicines or taking an overdose.  
  • Follow all medicine dosage instructions to avoid taking too much.
  • Develop a system for medicine tracking to help show when it has been taken, such as a check-off list or medicine journal. This helps to ensure the medicine has been taken also helps prevent extra doses from being taken accidentally.
  • Dispose of all medicines that are no longer needed, such as expired medicines and prescriptions that have been discontinued. This helps to prevent senior adults from taking the wrong medicine or drugs interacting with each other. Many communities have collection events or drop boxes for safe disposal of medicines, so ask your local pharmacist for suggestions. To find out when and where the next collection event will be, click on one of these links: or Some police departments have full-time medication dropboxes so you can go by anytime to drop off those unused or expired medicines.  To find one near you, just click on the link below:
  • Never take someone else’s medicine. Even if it could be beneficial, it might interact with a person’s other medicines. Plus, taking other people’s prescriptions is illegal!
  • Be very cautious when considering ordering medicines over the Internet. It is often impossible to tell if they are coming from another country, and the ingredients may not be what are claimed. This especially applies to supplements that make claims for “miracle cures.” Ask family members or a pharmacist to investigate the site before sending money or taking products obtained online.
  • Keep the Poison Help toll-free number handy for poison information and emergencies. If a poisoning is suspected, call the Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.

For more information about seniors and medicine safety, visit our website at or call the Texas Poison Center Network at 1-800-222-1222.  


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Poisons: Myths vs. Facts

There are many myths when it comes to poisonings. While some things may seem harmless, they can actually be quite dangerous. In this blog the Texas Poison Center Network breaks down a few of the myths and back it up with the actual facts. So what are some myths and facts about poisonings and prevention?

Myth #1: Putting products up high will prevent poisonings.

As children grow, they learn to climb on chairs and counters. Putting poisons in locked cabinets will be more useful after children reach the climbing stage. So while keeping dangerous products up high out of reach is a good idea, it is best to keep them locked up too.

Myth #2: Use of “natural” products prevents poisonings.

Plants are natural and can be poisonous. Natural home remedies and health food products may also be hazardous to children and adults in certain situations. Just because something is natural does not mean it is safe. Make sure to check with a doctor or call poison control first if you are unsure about using a product.

Myth #3:  Children won’t eat bad-tasting things.

Some children are more adventurous in their eating habits than others, but many children will still eat yucky things such as dirt, trash, feces, batteries, coins, mothballs, spit tobacco, roaches, and more. Keep this in mind and always keep your eyes on your children and keep dangerous items stored high and locked up.

Myth #4: All poisonings can be prevented by locking up poisons.

Latches and locks are a great way to reduce access to hazards.  But, many poisonings occur when a product is out for use or display.  Examples include cleaning day, using scented plug-ins, holiday plants, lamp oil, cigarettes, mixed drinks, taking medication, etc. If you are worried that someone you know might have been accidentally poisoned, please contact a poison center for help at 1-800-222-1222.

Myth #5:  It’s safe to eat plants that are eaten by birds and animals.
Not every species can eat the same plants safely because their metabolisms are very different.  And did you know that birds and animals can get poisoned by eating the wrong plants too? For this reason we should always be mindful of what we put in our mouth.
Myth #6:  Some medicine caps are child-proof and kids can’t get into them.
Difficult-to-open caps are called child-resistant closures. There is no such thing as child-proof. Child resistant means that they simply take longer to open, in the hopes that an adult will discover what a child is doing before the cap is pried off. Never leave medication where a child can access it.

Myth #7: All poisoning cases should be treated in the hospital.

This is probably the biggest myth of all! Did you know most poisonings can be treated at home with the guidance of experts on the poison center hotline? It’s true! Most unintentional poisonings can be treated at home saving you time and money.

The Texas Poison Center Network is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call us anytime, anywhere for your poison emergency at 1-800-222-1222.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Keep Your Eyes Peeled for Snakes

With recent heavy rains, snakes have been out in full force. At a North Texas daycare, a little boy was bit by a copperhead (read here). In Birmingham, a 4-year-old girl and a 76-year-old woman were both bitten by snakes while in a garden (read here). Most snakes are harmless, but some are venomous and can be very dangerous. Here are the snakes in Texas that you should keep a lookout for this time of year:

Cottonmouth: A cottonmouth can reach lengths of up to five feet long. Commonly called a Water Moccasin, these snakes enjoy being near bodies of water and are usually dark black in color with wide bands on its body. This type of snake can be aggressive so keep your eyes open when playing by lakes, ponds and rivers.

Rattlesnake: The Western Diamondback rattlesnake is one of the most common rattlesnakes you’ll find in Texas (except for the eastern part of the state) and accounts for most of the serious envenomations. It can reach lengths of up to seven feet and has a triangular shaped head. They often spend their days hiding in low-growing shrubs or under rocks. The most identifiable part of this snake is its rattle, followed by an equally banded black and white tail and diamond-shaped patterned skin (hence its name). They are not usually aggressive but can be if their habitat is disturbed or threatened or if they feel cornered; so watch where you’re walking when out on hikes!

Copperhead: These snakes are also very common Texas (except for the western part of the state). It can reach up to 30 inches long and has a reddish-brown head and a coppery body. These snakes are usually not aggressive and most people only get bitten by accidently stepping on them. The reason it might be easy to step on one is because they blend in so well with oak leaves and other vegetation. Make sure you are aware of your surroundings and where you are walking when in wooded or park areas.

Texas Coral Snake: This snake is the most colorful of the bunch, only reaching about 2 feet in length. They are not too hard to miss with their bright red, black and yellow rings on the body, but there are other non-venomous snakes that look very similar. Although we don’t see very many Coral snake bites, the bite can be dangerous, especially in children. Their mouths are quite small so they have an easier time biting young children than they do an adult. It is best to avoid these snakes and remember the saying: Red touching yellow, kills a fellow, while red touching black, venom they lack!

Think you've been bitten by a snake?

·         Remain as calm as possible. The more calm you are the slower your heart beats, slowing the spread of the venom.

·         Call your local poison center (1-800-222-1222) right away! Keep the number programmed in your phone so that you have it when you need it. They are available to help 24/7.

·         Avoid food, drinks, and medications -including medications for pain and/or aspirin.

·         Do not try to capture the snake for any purpose.

·         Remove jewelry or anything that may constrict swelling.

·         Do not try to suck the venom out.

·         Do not pack the wound with ice.

·         Do not cut the wound

·         Do not apply a tourniquet

Attempting to treat the bite incorrectly can result in further injury to the area. It is important to remain calm and get to your nearest hospital right away.

Snake bites can be scary, but calling the poison center immediately can help ease your worries and give you some peace of mind. Please do not hesitate to contact the Texas Poison Center Network for FREE assistance. And in case you forgot, here’s the number to save in your phone: 1-800-222-1222.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

What You Need to Know About the Zika Virus and Standing Water

As we make our way through spring and soon head into the summer months, mosquito season is in full force. Mosquitoes are known to carry the Zika virus which can cause fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The Zika virus infection is most dangerous for pregnant women because it can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other severe fetal brain defects.

This spring has been filled with heavy rains, which means the mosquitoes are more rampant than ever. The Texas Poison Center Network wants you to know what you can do to help eliminate being infected by the Zika virus. Here are a few steps you can take to help eliminate mosquitoes breeding around your home:

·         Remove standing water, as this is where mosquitoes breed. This includes pet water bowls, flower pots, buckets, birdbaths, trashcans, and rain barrels. Once a week, remove standing water around your home and wash out the container the water was in. This way you also get rid of any mosquito eggs waiting to hatch.

·         If you need to store water outside, make sure it is covered with a tight lid to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in it.

If you are finding lots of mosquitoes already around your home, follow these steps to help eliminate your chances of being bitten:

·         Wear long sleeved shirts and pants.

·         Stay inside

·         Use insect repellents with DEET and make sure to follow directions on the bottle. (DEET repellent is not recommended for younger than two months of age)

If you are pregnant, check out this link from the CDC that contains important steps to take to stay free of the Zika virus:

If you have questions about the Zika virus, or you are concerned you might have contracted it, contact the Texas Poison Center Network at 1-800-222-1222.