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.

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Truth about Poinsettias

For many years, the Poinsettia has been classified as a very poisonous plant.  For this reason, many people avoid having this beautiful plant in their home.  However, studies have shown that the plant may not be as dangerous as we thought. 

The misconception about the Poinsettia began in 1919 when an officer in the US Army experienced the tragic loss of his two-year old son.  The cause of death is unknown but it is suspected the child ate some of a Poinsettia plant. The news spread rapidly and has since placed the Poinsettia on the dangerous plant list.  
Every year, poison centers receive many calls beginning in November and ending in January after their child or pet have eaten the plant and no fatalities occur.  Researchers decided to study the toxic effects of the plant to determine its true threat.  The researchers fed large quantities of the plant to rats and tracked human exposures.  After the rats experienced no symptoms and human exposures resulted in no serious effects, the Poinsettia was removed from the list of extremely toxic plants.

If you still aren’t sure about the dangers the Poinsettia poses, here is a little example to show the toxicity of the plant.  If a child weighing 50 lbs. were to eat 500 or 1 ¼ lbs. of leaves from the plant they may expect to experience some stomach discomfort to include nausea and vomiting.  However, if that same child were to eat 500 or 1 ¼ lbs. of lettuce leaves, some nausea and vomiting may occur as well.
People with allergies to latex and atopic eczema should avoid the plant due to the plants latex properties and potential skin irritation.

As for pets, the ASPCA concluded pets that eat the Poinsettia might also experience some stomach upset.  Animals’ bodies would treat the plant as a foreign body and could reject it by vomiting
Avoid serving Poinsettia salads this holiday season, but you are free to enjoy the beautiful plant in your home without the fear of being poisoned by it.  If you have questions call the Texas Poison Center Network at 1-800-222-1222.  Remember the people who answer the phones at the poison center are pharmacists, nurses, doctors or other medical professionals, and are specially trained and certified in the field of toxicology.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Be smart while having Fun: Halloween Safety 2015

It’s a spooktacular time of year! A time for trick or treating, pumpkin carving and costume wearing fun! What am I talking about? Halloween of course! Here at the Texas Poison Center Network (TPCN), we want you to enjoy your Halloween festivities but we also want you to stay safe!
The TPCN offers parents the following safety tips to help prevent exposures and injuries on Halloween:

Candy and treats:

·         Inspect all candy for any signs of tampering (tears, pinholes, discoloration, etc.) before eating or allowing children to eat.

·         Check all candy and edibles for choking hazards.

·         Children should avoid eating homemade treats from strangers, and any treats that may contain marijuana or other drugs. If you suspect a child has consumed candy containing a drug, call 1-800-222-1222 for immediate assistance.


·         Test face makeup in a small area of skin first (preferably on the arm) to check for allergic reaction before applying it to the face. Avoid decorating the face or body with products that aren’t intended for the skin.

·         Avoid the eye area when applying costume makeup to the face, as well as remove makeup before bedtime to prevent eye and/or skin irritation.

·         Throw out any makeup that has a very bad smell; this could be a sign of contamination.

Remember the TPCN is here to provide free and confidential information and treatment advice 24-hours per day, seven days a week, including holidays! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at 1-800-222-1222.

Check out our Halloween Poem below and have a fantastic and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!


Thursday, October 22, 2015

National Health Education Week: Being Aware of Poison Control Services

It’s National Public Education Week, a time when national attention is brought to the forefront on major public health issues as well as a time to promote consumers’ understanding of health education and the importance of staying informed. This year’s theme is Health Education: Past, Present, and Future.

There are various ways you can help poison control centers promote poison control services! If you are in the health industry, try reaching out to your local poison center to work on collaboration efforts (here is a link to the Texas Poison Center Network: Public health partnerships help expand resources and increase knowledge thus creating a healthier nation. That equals a win-win!
You can also share facts and information with friends, family and colleagues on poison center resources. Parents play a critical role in helping their tweens learn about the responsible use of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. With approximately 10,000 kids under age 18 visiting emergency departments every year due to errors from self-administering OTC medications, it is important for parents and guardians to discuss the safe use and storage of OTC medicines with their tweens.

For example, did you know in 2013, America’s poison centers managed over 250,000 exposure cases involving children? Over fifty percent of these cases involved medication errors or misuse. These numbers can decrease as long as we increase our knowledge regarding over the counter medications.

Remember that poison centers are staffed with experts such as doctors, nurses, pharmacists and even toxicologists who are waiting to answer your call for help. They can answer anything from general questions about medicines to concerns about a potential poisoning. Save the number in your phone now so you have it when you need it: 1-800-222-1222. You can call anytime from anywhere in the United States.

In today’s world, health education is more critical than ever. That’s why the Texas Poison Center Network wants you to know that there are FREE services available to you to help you with your health needs and poison concerns. Poison center educators can provide presentations for all ages at a variety of locations and they also can exhibit at health fairs and other educational events.  To contact an educator in your area just click here- Don’t hesitate to reach out and make sure your friends, family and colleagues are aware of these services too. It could save a life.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

How Poison Control Helps Prepare you for Disasters

National Preparedness Month falls during the month of September. During this time individuals are encouraged to become more prepared for an emergency or disaster. Below you will find the four steps provided by various government agencies that share tips on how to better be prepared.

Emergency preparedness encompasses four important steps:

How can the Poison Control Centers help during disasters? Here’s a list of ways:

  •  In the event of a chemical or biological attack. The staff at each poison center has extensive knowledge of healthcare resources and work with hospitals to ensure that patients get the right treatments needed. Experts are able to identify what antidotes can help and provide education to both the public and healthcare professionals.

  •  They handle acute and chronic poisonings as well as environmental and occupational exposures. This is an important resource because specialists in poison information are also experts in toxicology.

  •  They collect data. The data collection system can assist in detection of diseases and help track individuals who might have been exposed. This information is vital when it comes to issues of a bioterrorist attack.

  •  They alleviate fears. As a 24 hour resource, you can contact them at ANYTIME with concerns or issues that you would like more information about.

 The Texas Poison Center Network is such an important resource and the best part is it is available 24/7 for FREE! Call 1-800-222-1222 and put your mind at ease when dealing with any natural disaster or emergency.