Wednesday, April 26, 2017

National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is April 29th!

Do you have unused or expired medications at home lying around in cabinets just collecting dust? Did you know that holding onto old medications is not a good idea?  All medications have an expiration date.  Not only should they not be used when expired, but if not disposed of, the wrong person could get into them and get poisoned. For these reasons, now is the time to spring into action and clean out those medicine cabinets so that you can get rid of all of your unneeded and expired medications.

On April 29th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is sponsoring a nation-wide drug take-back and in Texas, the Texas Poison Center Network is helping out in each of their regions. Safety is our number one concern! The National Prescription Drug Take-Back initiative addresses an important public safety and health issue. Prescription drugs that sit in medicine cabinets for a long period of time tend to be susceptible to abuse and misuse.

In the U.S. alone, prescription drug abuse is extremely high. By turning in unused and expired medications, you can help to. Remember, medications should not be flushed down the toilet, unless it is indicated on the label, because they can affect the clean water supply. Instead of throwing unwanted or unneeded medications in the trash (where kids or others could get them) or flushing them down the toilet (where it could contaminate the water), why not head to your nearest medication take-back location and turn them in.

By providing a drug take-back day, people have the opportunity to dispose of medications in an environmentally responsible and safe way. You will be doing yourself and your community a great service!  For more information on this initiative or to find a collection site near you, please visit http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/index.html.

You can also call your poison center at 1-800-222-1222 to obtain more information on safe medication disposal and storage or additional events in your area. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Pesticides Can Be Deadly if Handled Improperly

Recently, a terrible tragedy struck a Texas panhandle home and family. Four children heartbreakingly died from phosphine gas poisoning this past January due to pesticide pellets that had been placed underneath the home in an effort to kill mice. Officials explained that a chemical reaction occurred when one person tried to wash away the pesticide that had been placed under the house, which then created the release of poisonous phosphine gas.

Phosphine gas is dangerous because it can cause respiratory failure and in extreme cases, it can also cause pulmonary edema, which fills the lungs with fluid. Phosphine is a colorless, flammable, and toxic gas with an odor of garlic or decaying fish. It can also catch fire when it comes in contact with air.

How do you know if a pesticide is safe?

If a pesticide is sold over the counter in the U.S., then it should be safe to use around your home. In the poisoning case described above, the pesticide was not one that could be bought without a special license, so it should not have been used on the home unless it was being applied by a professional. It is important that people understand the dangers of using chemicals that are not sold in stores. Those for commercial use only safe for those who are certified in pest control services to use.

If you are not sure if a pesticide is safe, please contact your local poison center and they can help you out. Call 1-800-222-1222 for more information on pesticides or other potential poisonings.

Friday, March 31, 2017

TPCN Spotlight: Jeanie Jaramillo, Texas Panhandle Poison Director

Jeanie Jaramillo, Poison Director
1. Tell me your history with poison control. How long have you worked there/what is your background:

My introduction to the world of poison control occurred when I was a pharmacy student and completed a rotation at the local poison center. Until that time, I had no idea how much poison centers actually do! Following pharmacy school, I completed a drug information residency which allowed me to manage cases at the poison center one day each week. Shortly after that, I was asked to serve as the managing director.
 
2. What do you think is one of the most important aspects of poison control services?

 One of the most important aspects of poison control services is our work to help keep people from visiting emergency rooms unnecessarily. With approximately 80% of poisonings being manageable at home, it is so important to help people before they consider going to the emergency room. Aside from the expense of going to an ER, it can create a significant amount of anxiety, especially for children! Our healthcare professionals can assist callers by phone and in many cases, prevent these ER visits.

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

What I enjoy most about my job is the ability to develop programs that PREVENT poisonings. One such program has been the Medication Cleanout of the Texas Panhandle Poison Center. By facilitating the removal of unused medications from homes, we've been able to prevent numerous poisonings and perhaps even deaths. It's extremely gratifying to have participants come through and tell us how much they appreciate the program.

4. What do you think the public needs to know regarding poison control?

I think that the public needs to know that poison control is not just for kids! We can help those who have taken too much medication, or perhaps taken someone else's medication (like a spouse or child). We complete an assessment over the phone and then make recommendations regarding whether that person can stay at home, or if they need to go to an emergency room or physician's office. Also, many people don't think of drug overdoses as poisonings, but they are! If a person has taken an overdose of a medication, on purpose or unintentionally, we can help. We can also help people decide whether a specific plant or a pesticide is poisonous.

 
5. Share a funny story here that might have happened on the job.

 Probably every director's nightmare is actually needing to call the poison center regarding something that they've had happen to them! I have had to call. While washing my face one night, I got some of the cleanser in my eye and it burned so badly! Of course, I couldn't read the bottle at the time, so I wasn't sure if I simply needed to irrigate my eye with water or if I needed to go the emergency room to see if my cornea was burned. I called one of my very own nurses at the poison center and she helped me out very quickly. Thankfully, I did not need to go to the ER!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Raise Awareness during Poison Prevention Week 2017

When people think of poisonings, they usually think of young children getting into medications or ingesting a toxic substance such as a cleaning supply usually found underneath the kitchen sink. Many people are not aware that poisonings can also include mixing the wrong medications or taking too much of a medication, being bitten by a poisonous snake or spider, and/or coming into contact with silent killers like carbon monoxide. Each year 250,000 calls regarding potential poisonings are reported in Texas alone. With the help of public education, the Texas Poison Center Network hopes to bring the number of poisonings down and raise awareness about the free poison prevention hotline 1-800-222-1222 

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 55th year and acts as a reminder that poisonings are currently the leading cause of injury death in the country. But as with any injury, it can be preventable and a poison expert is only a phone call away and ready to assist you.

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 and does not mean to cause harm.
Poisonings are more common than you think. Currently, more than two million poisonings are reported each year to all the 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 percent 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 exposure is to medicines, plants, pesticides 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 may mistake tiny pills for yummy candy.
  • Get fuel burning appliances checked yearly and make sure working carbon monoxide detectors are in the house and checked multiple times 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 right away 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 ok 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 www.poisoncontrol.org.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Beware of Hyland Teething Tablets Containing Toxic Substance Belladonna


When babies start to get their teeth, it can be a painful adjustment with many sleepless nights. This can be a hard time for parents too, which is why many have chosen teething tablets as a way to help relieve this pain for their little ones. Teething tablets are homeopathic in nature and are what some parents turn to instead of over-the-counter medications like Tylenol or Advil. But the brand of teething tablets, Hyland’s, recently found inconsistent amounts of belladonna, a toxic substance, in the product and the amount claimed on the label was not always correct. The FDA found that some tablets had far over the amount the label reported.

The Texas Poison Center Network wants you to be aware of the dangers of using Hyland’s teething tablets. The tablets can pose unnecessary risk to infants and children, therefore, the FDA is urging consumers to not use these products. Homeopathic tablets have not been approved or evaluated by the FDA for safety and effectiveness.  It is best to dispose of any teething tablets you might have at home. If your child is teething, the best remedy to help get through this time is a cold teething ring to numb the oral tissue.

If your child has been using Hyland’s teething tablets with belladonna and experiences any difficulty breathing, has excessive sleepiness, or is unusually agitated, please contact your local poison center in Texas at 1-800-222-1222.  Safety is our first concern! As always, remember to keep any medication, even if homeopathic in nature, locked up and away from children.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

TPCN Spotlight: Sal Baeza, West Texas Poison Director


1. Tell me your history with poison control. How long have you worked there/what is your background:
I've worked in the West Texas Regional Poison Center since 2002.  I'd originally done a rotation here during my last year of pharmacy school.  After graduating I completed a Pediatric Pharmacy Residency and was recruited to come back to the center by our previous directors, Leo Artalejo and John Haynes.  I worked as a Specialist and was fortunate to become a Diplomate of the American Board of Applied Toxicology with their support.  After Leo's retirement in 2012, I was promoted to Director.

2. What do you think is one of the most important aspects of poison control services?
One of the most important and yet overlooked aspects of our poison control centers' services is the immediate and direct impact that we can make on our patients' and their families' lives.  There is never a good time for an accident or an emergency.  Yet when one happens where a loved one has been exposed to something they shouldn't, whether it be a toddler drinking a household cleaner, a double dose on a medication, or even a rattlesnake bite, it is great to know that people can call us and we can walk them through what exactly needs to be done, whether that be at home or in the hospital.  Our experienced specialists are nurses and pharmacists that can provide the most appropriate information based on your situation.  There is no need to waste valuable time looking something up online and hoping you find the right website. 

3. What do you enjoy most about your job and why?
What I enjoy most about working in the poison center is being able to help so many patients.  Over 80% of the time we are able to safely keep a patient at home or work by providing them the correct information on what the actual risks are from their situation, what signs and symptoms to monitor for, what they can do and, just as important, what they shouldn't do.  In all those cases where we are able to keep someone out of the ER and we just made their day.  They don't have to pull the kids from school and miss their practices or games.  They don't have to miss work.  They don't have to disrupt their entire day by running to a busy and crowded ER or doctor's office and wait for hours to be seen.  Knowing that we just saved them all that headache and worry is what I enjoy most. 

4. What do you think the public needs to know regarding poison control?
When people think of poison they most often picture the skull and crossbones or some steaming concoction made up in a lab in an old black & white movie.  People don't realize that anything can be a poison.  About 2/3 of our calls are regarding medications, both over-the-counter and prescription.  Many people wouldn't consider their regular daily medication to be a poison. Yet when taken incorrectly or by the wrong person, it most certainly can be.  The same can be said for all of our household products from your personal hygiene and beauty products found in your bathroom and vanity to the different detergents and cleaners you keep in the laundry room and garage.  Anything can be a poison and only the dose differentiates a poison from a cure.  It doesn't matter what it is, you can call us.

5. Share a funny story here that might have happened on the job.
I didn't know how to bake a turkey until my first Thanksgiving working in the poison control center.  I never imagined so many things could go wrong in baking a big bird.  My colleagues had warned me, so I'd planned to use the USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline as my backup.  I didn't know that they closed at noon local time!  Baking frozen turkeys, broken meat thermometers, innards left in the plastic bag in the baking turkey, Teflon pans left in the oven, carbon monoxide and smoke alarms going off in the home, is 8 hours at 350 degrees long enough...the calls were non-stop.  I was stuck having to call my grandmother for advice on what to tell a few callers who'd run into mishaps in their kitchens.  After about my third call to her, she asked, "What are you doing?  I thought you were at work."  Yes, this comic is so true...and I now know how to bake a turkey!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Holiday Poison Safety: What You Need to Know to Stay Safe


It’s the most wonderful time of year when families and friends gather round to give thanks and appreciation as well as spend quality time together. This quality time usually includes delicious food! But this food could also make you terribly sick if it isn’t cooked or stored properly. The Texas Poison Center Network has compiled some tips to make sure your holiday season- and food- is most enjoyable!

ü  Make sure you always wash your hands before and after handling food. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says the best way to wash hands is with these five easy steps: wet, lather, scrub, rinse, and dry!

ü  Protect yourself and others from food poisoning by being cautious about how you cook and how long you leave food out of the refrigerator. When handling uncooked meat, you should not only wash your hands before but also after handling. The same goes for any utensils or countertops where the uncooked meat is prepared. And remember to reheat leftovers to at least 165 degrees. Avoid leaving food unrefrigerated for more than two hours.

ü  Watch out for potentially poisonous plants. Keep mistletoe, holly berry and Jerusalem cherry out of reach of children and pets. If you think your child might have gotten into any of these plants, please call the Texas Poison Center Network at 1-800-222-1222.

ü  Make sure toys are age appropriate. Toys designated above a child’s age level could be hazardous to their health. For example, avoid giving small children toys with button batteries. If swallowed, they can cause serious damage. See which toys have been recalled.

ü  “Angel hair”, a Christmas decoration usually made of spun glass, can irritate the skin and eyes. Be sure to always wear gloves when handling and keep out of reach of children.

The Texas Poison Center Network wishes you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. And if you ever find yourself in a poison emergency, please do not hesitate to contact us any time at 1-800-222-1222.