Friday, May 24, 2019

Bites and Stings to Look Out for in Summertime

As the weather heats up and kids get out of school for summer, more time is spent outdoors working and playing. The summer months can be full of fun, but it is also a time when bugs and snakes come out and while most are harmless, there are a few that can hurt you. Dangerous and venomous bugs such as wasps and spiders are important to keep a lookout for when being outdoors. There are also a few poisonous snakes to be aware of in case you ever come across them in the wild. The Texas Poison Center Network (TPCN) wants you to know the dangers of encountering these bugs and snakes in order to keep you and your family poison-free!

Creepy Crawlers in Texas
Lots of little kids love bugs and enjoy touching and learning about them. Seeing kids’ curiosity about bugs can be endearing, but it’s important to be aware that some bugs can cause pain. Below the TPCN has compiled a list of some of the most prominently known bugs to lookout for in Texas when it comes to bites and stings, so make sure to share this information with kids or anyone playing or working outdoors.

Bees and Wasps
Honey Bee
You might have noticed some wasps, yellow jackets, bees or hornets buzzing around your home. If so, they most likely have built a nest somewhere on the outside of your home or in hollow places that do not get disturbed. When it is light out, look around your home to see if you can find the nest. If so, you should call a professional to take care of it. Never try to remove the nest yourself. If the nests are not taken care of, there can be dangerous consequences, especially for those who have allergies to these stings. 

Black Widow
Most spiders are harmless to humans. But in Texas there are two spiders to watch out for and they are the brown recluse and the black widow. These spiders are known to hang out in dark areas where there isn’t much draft. The only time they might bite is if they feel threatened. Unfortunately, with most spider bites, you won’t even feel them. That is why it is important that anytime you find a suspecting bite on your body or your child’s, that you call the poison center for assistance and treatment recommendations.

Brown Recluse
Mosquitoes are some of the peskiest bugs out there, but they are relatively harmless as long as you cover yourself up with repellent. They can carry some yucky diseases, though, including West Nile Virus and malaria. The best way to avoid mosquitoes around your home is to get rid of any standing water, including bird baths. Standing water is the way mosquitoes breed so ensure you dump out all standing water, especially after it rains. Mosquitoes are most active in the early evening so if you need to go out at this time, make sure you use mosquito repellent and cover all exposed areas of skin.

Ticks can be found in dense brush and wooded areas. If you plan on taking a hike or going around heavily wooded areas, make sure to cover your skin with clothing to help eliminate chances of a tick biting you. Also, safeguard by using tick repellent where skin is visible to eliminate chances of being bit. If you do find a tick embedded in your skin, the best thing you can do is remove it with tweezers. Call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222 for information on how to remove it or treat the open wound it can sometimes leave behind.

Snakes to Look Out for in Texas

A cottonmouth snake 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 a dark black color with wide bands over its body. It is known to be aggressive so keep your eyes open when playing by lakes, ponds and rivers.

The Western Diamondback rattlesnake is one of the most common snakes you will find in Texas. It can reach lengths of up to seven feet and has a triangular-shaped head. They spend most of their days hiding in low-growing shrubs or rocks This snake is most known for their rattle, but it is also covered in a diamond-shaped pattern, which is where it gets its name. They don’t tend to be aggressive, but if their habitat is disturbed or threatened they can be, so keep your eyes peeled when out on hikes in wooded areas.

Copperheads reach about 30 inches long and their color consists of a reddish-brown head with coppery bodies. These snakes aren’t known to be aggressive. Most people who have been bitten only get bitten by accidentally stepping on them. They easily blend in with vegetation and dirt making it easy to step on one. Make sure you are aware of your surroundings and where you are walking when in wooded or park areas.

Coral Snake
Coral Snake
This snake is the most colorful of the bunch, only reaching about 2 feet in length. They are easier to spot due to their bright red, black and yellow rings on their bodies. Coral snakes can be extremely dangerous due to their venom, especially if they bite a child. Their mouths can be fairly small, so they have an easier time of biting 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!

Remember, if you run across any of these snakes or bugs and happen to get bitten or stung, please do not hesitate to contact a poison center for help at 1-800-222-1222. They are always there, always free and can provide help on how to treat the bite and more. You can also visit to read more information on bites and stings.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

DEA National Drug Takeback Day 2019 is Coming Up!

April 27th is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, which addresses an important public safety and health concern. What is the concern? If you do not properly dispose of unused medications or expired prescription medications, then they could end up in the wrong hands and cause a potential overdose or adverse reaction to a medication. Unused and expired medicines in the home put you and your family at an increased risk for accidental poisonings.

According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 6 million Americans misused controlled prescription drugs. Many of these medications were obtained from family members and friends. Medication take back days provide an opportunity for families to dispose of medicine in a safe, convenient, and responsible way.

On April 27th, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) will collect medications at various drug take-back sites. By turning in your unused medications, you are helping save lives! Remember, medications should never be flushed down the toilet, because this can affect the clean water supply. Instead of simply throwing medications in the trash, head to a drug take-back site and turn them in.

Here are some important points to why turning in old medications is so vital:
  • Pharmaceutical drugs can be just as dangerous as street drugs when they get in the wrong hands.
  • The non-medical use of prescription drugs ranks second to marijuana as the most commonly abused drugs in America.
  • Unused prescription drugs can easily be retrieved if simply thrown in the trash. They can then be abused or illegally sold to others.
  • Most teens who abuse medications get them from family or friends by going into their medicine cabinets.

To find a drug take-back location near you, please visit And for more information on Drug Take-Back Day, please visit the DEA website at

The Texas Poison Center Network wants to keep you and your family safe. It is always important to safely store the medicines you use by keeping them out of reach of children and pets.
If you or someone you know has misused medication and is having adverse reactions, please contact us! You can also contact the poison center for information on safe medication disposal. They are available to take your call 24/7 at 1-800-222-1222.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Bringing Awareness to National Poison Prevention Week

This week, March 17th-23rd, marks the celebration of National Poison Prevention Week 2019. In 1961, the United States designated the third full week of March as National Poison Prevention Week, a week dedicated to highlighting the dangers of poisonings. This year marks the 57th year and acts as a reminder that poisonings are the leading cause of injury related death in the United States. While injuries can cause harm, many are preventable. And for those injuries that aren’t prevented, a poison expert is only a phone call away and ready to assist you.

In 2017, poison centers in the US received approximately 2.6 million cases via telephone. That’s one poison exposure call every 12 seconds! But not all the statistics involving poisons are bad. In fact, poison centers save Americans more than $1.8 billion every year in medical costs and lost productivity. That is amazing and an incredible attribute to all the hard work the poison centers do to help save lives and cut down visits to the emergency room.

Poison centers are also a fantastic help when it comes to major public health emergencies and epidemics. Since 2011, the centers have handled 500,000 calls of opioid misuse and abuse as well as calls of concern regarding measles diagnoses. Other major issues poison centers have assisted with recently include liquid laundry packets, synthetic cannabinoids, and e-cigarettes.

Not only do centers assist people with their poison emergencies, but they also assist first responders and hospital personnel. And on top of that, they identify emerging drugs of abuse and provide countless hours of educational outreach.

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 might think. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), approximately 93 percent of these poisonings are happening at home, with 45%of them involving children under the age of six.

Here are some tips to keep your family safe:
  • 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 regional 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 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
If you or someone else 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 instructions given to you by the poison specialist. Often, the poison specialist will call you back to make sure that things are going okay. 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

 Below is the Texas Governor Proclamation on Poison Prevention Week:

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

What You Need to Know About CBD Oils

Cannabidiol (CBD) oil and CBD oil containing products have become the new “thing” that people claim can help with all types of ailments from seizures to sleeplessness, anxiety, inflammation and many more.

All medications in the US, whether they are found in a pharmacy, a discount store, or the medicine aisle of your local grocery store, are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This includes both prescription and non-prescription medications. Unfortunately, since CBD oils and CBD oil containing products are not considered medications, they are not federally regulated; just like dietary supplements, homeopathic agents, and herbal products. And, since they are not federally regulated, they have no requirements for quality, efficacy and even safety. There is also the potential of possible contamination during the growing, production, packaging, labeling or even storing and shipping process that adds an additional layer of concern.

Even though CBD oil is marketed as legal, in reality it is not that simple.  Since CBD oil can be extracted from either the marijuana plant or the hemp plant, their legal status is usually questionable. Hemp derived oils are currently legal in most states since they claim not to contain THC (the chemical that makes marijuana illegal) and thus does not cause the “high”.  Marijuana derived oils are usually only legal in some states where other marijuana containing products are also legal. 
Since there is not yet enough scientific evidence to justify their effectiveness or safety, it is essential that proper precautions are taken when purchasing CBD oil or any other CBD containing product and that any adverse effects are reported immediately.  It is also important to discuss their use with your physician since there is a possibility that they can cause adverse reactions when mixed with certain medications. If you or someone you know has an adverse reaction to a CBD oil or CBD containing product, please do not hesitate to contact the Texas Poison Center Network for help at 1-800-222-1222. They have certified nurses and pharmacists answering the phones 24/7 to help with any question or poison emergency.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

TPCN Spotlight Blog: North Texas SPI Joel Sherman

1)    Tell me your history with poison control and how you became a SPI.
I have only worked at Poison Control since this past September.  My background is in school nursing for the most part and it is 
policy there to contact poison control for any exposure to a potentially toxic substance that a student or teacher has been exposed to. The thing that I enjoy most about this job is learning practical information about substances that I can help people with (this also satisfies my need to be a smarty pants). I learned about the job when my fiancé stated that she and her sister had a friend who were always talking about how awesome the job is.

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 once received a call where a teacher had been smearing glow stick fluids all over her face while giving her students a lecture
over toxic chemicals. I guess this is so they would remember the subject matter. She stated that she got some of the fluid in her eye and that now her face was burning. She stated she irrigated her eye earlier. I recommended washing her face with soap and water. I assume that everything worked out okay after this call because she didn’t call back complaining of worsening symptoms. I thought the call was ironic for many reasons. She read on the label that the substance was non-toxic, she was talking about toxic chemicals. Then she called Poison Control because when her face started burning she second guessed herself on the toxicity. And why would you rub it on your face if you were not 100% certain. Plus just weird.

    3)    What do you think people need to know about the people who answer the phones for poison control?
We give advice according to the amount of information we are given. The more descriptive they can be with the situation the more we will be able to help.

    4)    What do you enjoy most about your job and why?
I enjoy learning. Everyday there is something new to learn and all of the people that I work with are great resources with a vast amount of knowledge.

5)    Why do you think it is important for people to have poison control as a resource for emergency help?
It is important for people to have poison control as a resource for emergency help because a lot of exposures do not require a medical professional to observe. These exposures when taken to the Emergency Department (ED) of the hospital are expensive for the person who was exposed, and make take up a spot in the ED that can be used for true medical emergency.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Top New Year’s Resolutions from the Texas Poison Center Network

With the new year upon us, now is the perfect time to make sure you and your family are prepared to prevent potential poisonings and keep your loved ones safe. The TPCN has compiled our top five resolutions for have a poison-free year! 
Check them out below:

1.    STAY INFORMED! Sign up for the TPCN Newsletter and the TPCN Blog- The newsletter comes only once a month to your email and it provides you with tips and tools regarding the time of year and any major timely poison related issues. The blog is bi-weekly and provides updates on newsworthy poison dangers. By receiving these and reading them, you can stay up-to-date on poison dangers and ensure you are keeping you and your loved ones healthy and safe.

2.    BE PREPARED! Save the Poison Help Number: If you do ever need to call poison control, it’s a smart idea to already have the number saved in your phone. In stressful situations it can sometimes be hard to remember numbers, so having the number saved in your phone will alleviate stress and help you get ahold of poison control quickly. Save it in your phone: 1-800-222-1222!

3.    PREVENT POISON! Clean Out Medications 
      and Other Potentially Dangerous Household Products: Now is a great time to clean out your medicine cabinet. Get rid of expired medications or any medications you no longer take or need. Once you have done that, make sure your medication is located up, away, & out of sight in a secured location. This keeps children out of medications and keeps your entire family safer.

Be sure to keep and store any household cleaners and other potential poisons in secure locations as well. These household items will also have expiration dates on them, so if they are expired, be sure to throw those away too!

4.    SHARE! Order a FREE Materials from the TPCN Website: On our website, you can order free magnets, brochures and other educational items. Make sure to at least order a magnet for your family and maybe a few extra to give to friends, neighbors or relatives to keep on their refrigerators, especially those with small children and those who are elderly. To order, visit, click on “Order Materials” and input your zip code. Scroll down and you can see all the items you can order from us at no cost to help you stay informed and poison-free!

5.    TPCN Brochures: Download or order at least one of the poison control brochures to learn more about poisons from our website Brochure topics include:
·         Poison Prevention Guide
·         Bites and Stings
·         Poisonous Plants
·         Alcohol and Tobacco
·         Prescription Drug Epidemic
·         Synthetic Drugs

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Heavy Metals Found in Popular Baby Food Brands

A Consumer Reports recently discovered that heavy metals can be found in popular baby food brands. These heavy metals include lead, mercury, cadmium and inorganic arsenic. Metals being ingested can be dangerous, because it is absorbed by your body and it stays in your system longer than you’d think.

If your child has consumed contaminated baby food, the immediate effects could be minimal.  Long-term exposure to these products however, could cause many problems including developmental issues, bladder, lung, and skin cancer. These metals have been found in popular baby food brands such as Beech-Nut, Gerber & Earth’s Best.  Products such as cereals, prepared entrees, and packaged fruits and vegetables were some of the items found to contain heavy metals.

According to Consumer Reports, children in the U.S. eat quite a bit of packaged baby food. More than 90 percent of parents with children three and under use these foods. Here are some of the specific findings from the report:
·         Each product tested had measurable amounts of heavy metals.
·         Roughly 2/3 had concerning levels of heavy metals.
·         Fifteen of the food items tested pose potential health risks to a child eating these regularly.
·         Snacks with rice or sweet potatoes contained the heaviest metals.
·         Organic foods were just as likely to contain heavy metals.

While the human body needs some heavy metals to function properly, such as iron and zinc, other metals such as cadmium, inorganic arsenic, lead and mercury can be toxic for everyone but especially dangerous to young children. Exposures to these metals at a young age can lead to several health issues, including a lower IQ, behavior problems, and even autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Making changes to your child’s diet can help reduce the exposure to heavy metals. Here are some ways to do this:
·         Limit how much infant rice cereal your child consumes. Instead opt for other cereals that have iron such as oats that are lower in inorganic arsenic.
·         Be cautious of how you prep your rice! The FDA recommends 6 to 10 parts water to 1-part rice and draining the excess water. This can reduce 40 to 60 percent of the inorganic arsenic content, depending on the type of rice.
·         Limit packaged snacks because many contain rice flour or have very little nutritional value. Instead choose foods such as avocadoes, bananas, beans, cheese, applesauce, grapes, hard-boiled eggs, peaches, strawberries, and yogurt.
·         When choosing fish, stay away from swordfish, bigeye tuna, shark, king mackerel and orange roughy as these are high in methylmercury.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding heavy metals, please do not hesitate to contact the Texas Poison Center Network 24/7 at 1-800-222-1222.