Monday, July 2, 2018

Beware of Rattlesnakes this Time of Year!

The Texas summer heat is in full effect, and it is important to be aware of snakes in rural and wildlife areas, and particularly rattlesnakes. Since many people enjoy hiking, biking and other outdoor activities during the summer months, there is an increased chance of running into rattlesnakes.

Encountering a rattlesnake in the wild can be a scary experience, but it is important to stay calm and give the snake plenty of space. You want to make sure there are at least five feet between you and the snake at all times.  While rattlesnakes are venomous, the good news is that if you leave it alone, it will most likely leave you alone too. If you have children or pets with you when you come in contact with a snake, make sure to protect them by keeping them as far away from it as possible.

Recently, people have found rattlesnakes in their backyards hiding under shrubs, piles of debris and anything else they can easily hide under. While it might be tempting to get close to the snake to get a better look or even try to kill it, it is better to give it space and leave it alone.  Approaching a snake will only increase your chances of getting bitten.  Contact a professional to remove the snake if it’s in your property. It is important to remind the professional when they come out to remove the snake to also to check the rest of your yard for other snakes, just to make sure.

If you get bitten by a rattlesnake, call 911 or get to a hospital right away! Call poison control while help arrives or while on your way to the hospital at 1-800-222-1222. 

Initial symptoms may include:

      Bloody discharge from wound


      Progressive swelling starting at the bite sites

      Burning and redness

      Dizziness and/or blurred vision

      Nausea and vomiting


      Fainting or convulsions


Don’t wait for symptoms to show up, get help right away! 

Monday, June 4, 2018

Beware of Toxic Algal Blooms While at Lakes or Rivers this Summer

Harmful algal blooms, also known as blue-green algae, which are polluting lakes, rivers and swimming holes throughout the U.S, are a growing problem- here in Texas as well. Usually algal blooms are easy to spot as they turn water smelly and slimy, so most of the time parents should be able to determine if the water looks safe to let children or pets play in it. Below is some information that can help you you’re your family safe this summer:

It can sometimes be difficult to identify algal blooms just by looking at a pond, river, or lake. Scientists and public health officials use specialized tests to identify these harmful algal blooms, and to determine when the risk of algal toxins has passed.
If the water looks like some type of green soup, it is most likely full of this nasty bacteria. This blue - green algae is an ancient organism that is a type of bacteria called cyanobacteria, which can grow wherever there is water.  This bacteria containing cyanobacteria can make people sick through the toxic substances they produce.

These cyanotoxins can cause:

·         Rashes
·         Itching
·         Vomiting
·         Diarrhea and headaches
·         And, in rare cases, can cause seizures, paralysis and liver failure, which can be deadly

Such severe poisonings are rare, but children are most at risk. Even if they don’t swim in the contaminated water, children are especially vulnerable to cyanotoxins. Children could potentially inhale cyanotoxins when playing along the shoreline, boating or by splashing water. Small children are known to put their hands in their mouth after touching just about anything, including this contaminated water. Teens should also be made aware of this as they aren’t always careful about where they swim.   

Symptoms can develop within hours of exposure. Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect you or your child has been exposed to a harmful algal bloom. Physicians can report algal poisoning events to state agencies that test water and post warning signs. Keep in mind, harmful algal blooms aren’t just a problem in freshwater – they can also be found in salt water and brackish water.

So be careful out there this summer and if you come in contact with anything poisonous, please contact the Texas Poison Network at 1-800-222-1222.

TIP!  Read and follow any posted warnings. If the lake or pond looks green or another strong color such as blue, yellow or brown, it should most likely be avoided. The water could contain harmful cyanotoxins.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Poison Prevention Week Wrap Up

Poison Prevention Week Wrap up from around Texas!
Back in March we celebrated Poison Prevention Week and all month long educators worked extra hard to educate the public on the importance of using poison control when you need it. Below is a wrap up of various center activities! Remember, if you ever need poison control, call 1-800-222-1222.
North Texas Poison Center
During National Poison Prevention Week 2018, the North Texas Poison Center at Parkland focused on raising awareness and reducing the incidence of unintentional poisonings, whether from accidental overdoses of acetaminophen, intentional use of dangerous opioids, and all other exposures to potentially toxic substances.
North Texas Poison Center Regional Winner of Poster Contest
Education is a key focus of the center. During NPPW18, NTPC educators presented 4 community education programs, made 4 local media appearances, awarded prizes for both the NTPC regional poster & video contests, and participated in 12 community outreach events.
NTPC also held their 14th Annual Poison Jungle Safari at the Caldwell Zoo in Tyler, reaching over 600 individuals with poison prevention information.
Southeast Texas Poison Center

Southeast participated in the PPW Poster contest, a cartoon contest, and Facebook video contest. They also had a table set up for the whole week at the City Hall of Texas City with Poison Center materials. The educator did a presentation at Stay and Play Child Care Center and had a table set up and attended it the whole day on Tuesday at Houston Northwest Hospital.
On Wednesday, the educator had a table and attended it the whole day at the Public Library in Brookshire. On Thursday, the educator presented the Facebook video contest winners with their prize and made a video and took pictures. Lastly, on Friday the educator had a table and attended it the whole day at Channel View High School.
Texas Panhandle Poison Center

Texas Panhandle Poison Center celebrated Poison Prevention Week with a very successful Medication Cleanout™ in Amarillo, TX.  During a 4-hour period, 637 vehicles drove through to drop off medications. They collected over 2,000 pounds of medications!
The goals of Medication Cleanout™ are to prevent poisonings, prevent abuse, and prevent misuse while protecting the environment.  People gather medications from their homes that they no longer want or need and then they drive through at the Medication Cleanout™ event where trained volunteers accept them.  The medications are disposed of in an environmentally friendly way and are no longer available for poisonings, abuse, or misuse.
We also had the pleasure of presenting for four different Head Start groups during the week.
Central Texas Poison Center
The regional educator had several presentations and Otto readings at Elementary schools. The center also held its annual Poison Safety Safari at the Cameron Park Zoo. Lastly, the educator did a KWTX morning news appearance to promote poison control.
West Texas Poison Center

Winner State Poster from West Texas Poison Center
During National Poison Prevention Week 2018, the West Texas Regional Poison Center focused on raising awareness of our national 800 number by participating in several health fairs and presentations throughout the week.  One of the most successful was at the military base (Fort Bliss).

We brought the animals out and met with military families to teach them about the potential dangers of living in the dessert.  We even had a picture cut out for families to take photos (picture below).  We reached over 500 people of all ages on that one day alone.  We also participated in the state poison prevention poster contest, held tours for young people to meet our poison center staff, posted information on social media, and attended city council and county commissioners meetings to receive local proclamations and resolutions in celebration of poison prevention week 2018.


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.