Friday, September 25, 2020

TPCN Spotlight: North Texas SPI Arpan Patel

  1. Tell me your history with poison control and how you became a Specialist in Poison Information (SPI).

    My journey into the realms of poison control began in March 2019. I believe I found the opportunity to work at a poison center by chance, as I had no idea it was something I could do with my educational background. Working at NTPC has solidified my understanding of the important role poison control centers play in serving the 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. 

    Insulin calls during the evenings are always memorable as they involve frequent callbacks throughout the night. Callers are always appreciative of the concern we show them by checking in on them and the education we provide to prevent similar episodes in the future. 
     
  3. What do you think people need to know about the people who answer the phones for poison control? 

    We are medical professionals who provide medical assistance and care to a variety of individuals including healthcare workers and the general public.  As a result, it’s second nature for us to ask a lot of questions to get a better idea of what’s happening so we can give accurate recommendations. 

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

    It’s humbling to be able to help callers daily and make a difference.  
  5. Why do you think it is important for people to have poison control as a resource for emergency help? 

    Apart from playing a key role in formulating treatment plans for sick patients, poison control centers reduce overall healthcare costs by preventing unnecessary ER visits and hospitalizations. This conserves healthcare resources for those requiring it the most and has proven beneficial especially during the current pandemic.  


Monday, September 21, 2020

Baby Safety Month: Tips on Keeping Babies Safe at Home

September is Baby Safety Month. With children at home more than ever, it is even more important that medications and cleaners, just to name a few of the dangers lurking at home, are locked and stored up and away and out of sight of young children. Having babies in the home can be an exciting time. To keep your home safe and fun for the little ones, make sure to follow these important tips from the Texas Poison Center Network.

Poison Safety Tips

·       First and foremost, pull out your cell phone and save this number, you never know when you might need it! Poison Center Help: 1-800-222-1222.

·       When it comes to measuring medications for babies, always use measuring syringes or dropper provided with the medication from the pharmacist or doctor. Also, always make sure you give them the correct amount.

·       Cleaning products, usually stored under cabinets, should be moved to another location that is out of sight and out of reach of young children.

·       Remember, once your baby is crawling, he or she can get to anything on the floor. That means you want to ensure there are no dangers within reach (roach bait, rat poison, medications dropped by mistake, etc.)

·       Medicine needs to be out of reach and locked up and away too. Is a purse or a nightstand a good place for your medications? Not with a baby or children around. Lock them up somewhere out of reach. 

·       Children’s medicines, like vitamins and cough syrup, can taste great to kids! If your child can get to these medicines, he or she may take the entire bottle.  Keep all medicines locked up and out of reach.

·       Check your yard for any poisonous plants or flowers too. You never know what babies will put in their mouth.

These are just a few important tips to help ensure your baby stays poison-free. For more information on poison control and tips for babysitters and more, please visit the Texas Poison Center Network website at www.poisoncontrol.org. And if you EVER find yourself or a loved one in a poison emergency, please do not hesitate to call us for help at 1-800-222-1222.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

FDA Puts Limits on Arsenic in Baby Rice Cereal


Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a final limit on the amounts of arsenic in baby rice cereal. This is the first time the FDA has put any limits on any food that could contain arsenic.

It is widely known that white cereals with certain grains can sometimes contain arsenic, but rice cereals can be much higher. Rice cereals, due to their absorption rate, may contain up to ten times more of the heavy metal. 

What is Arsenic?

According to the CDC, arsenic is a naturally occurring element that can combine with either inorganic or organic substances to form many different compounds. Simply stated, inorganic arsenic compounds can be found in soils, sediments, and groundwater. These compounds can happen either naturally or because of mining, smelting, or when using arsenic for industrial purposes. Organic arsenic compounds, on the other hand, are found primarily in fish and shellfish.

Here’s an interesting fact! Back in the day people used inorganic forms of arsenic in pesticides and paint pigment. People also used them thinking they were good for preserving woods as well a way to treat a variety of ailments. Luckily, we know better now and there are laws that restrict using arsenic-containing pesticides, wood preservatives, and medicines.

The Effects of Arsenic on Your Health

According to the CDC, large doses of inorganic arsenic can cause symptoms ranging from nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea to dehydration and shock. Long-term exposure can cause certain medical conditions such as skin disorders, high blood pressure, and even several types of cancer.

The FDA has now established a limit for inorganic arsenic of 100 parts per billion (ppb) in baby food. This is a voluntary limit and unenforceable currently. With the cooperation of makers of these products, we can hope to see arsenic completely out of baby foods. For more information on arsenic in food products, please visit the FDA link here.

If you or a loved one is experience symptoms like these, please reach out to the Texas Poison Center Network for guidance and help. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-222-1222.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Be Safe and Don’t Mix Cleaning Supplies

During a pandemic, fears can sometimes get the best of us. Many Americans are cleaning and disinfecting more than ever to ensure they, and their loved ones, stay healthy. Keeping items clean in the home is a good idea but try not to get too creative in how you clean. If you mix certain cleaning supplies, it can be a bad combination. 

While most cleaning products are safe when used as indicated, if they are mixed with other products, it can cause a chemical reaction that can result in potentially toxic fumes and even explosions. Remember to ALWAYS read the label and warnings thoroughly. Here is a list of some household items you should never mix:

1.       Bleach and Ammonia: When these are mixed together, they can produce a toxic gas called chloramine. This toxic gas can cause irritation to your eyes, nose, throat, and lungs and can even be deadly. If you do accidentally mix these two chemicals together, get out of the room immediately and into fresh air and call the poison center right away.

2.       Bleach and Vinegar: Both products are powerful on their own. Mixing bleach and an acid like vinegar can create a chlorine gas that can be very toxic and potentially deadly at high levels. It can cause breathing issues, coughing, and burning/watery eyes.

3.       Baking Soda and Vinegar: While these two chemicals mixed together turn into mostly water, if they were contained in a tight container, they could explode.

4.       Hydrogen Peroxide and Vinegar: Many people use these two separately to clean fruits and countertops.  What you do not want to do is mix these two chemicals together. By combining them in the same container, it creates a peracetic acid. This toxicity can cause irritation to the lungs, eyes, and nose.

5.       Bleach and Rubbing Alcohol: These two chemicals together cause a nasty chemical called chloroform. It can cause irritation to your nose and eyes and can be a toxic mix. You are probably seeing a theme here: do not mix anything with bleach!

6.       Drain Cleaner and another Drain Cleaner: Never mix two different types of drain cleaners. These are packed with powerful chemicals and if mixed can cause explosive reactions.

7.       Pesticides and Water: Some pesticides, when mixed with water, can create a deadly phosphine gas. Make sure to read the labels when using pesticides and follow the directions carefully. 

There are many other combinations of chemicals that can be harmful.   If you find yourself in a situation where you have mixed chemical agents, either on purpose or by mistake, please do not hesitate to call the Texas Poison Center Network at 1-800-222-1222. They can answer your questions or concerns 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also visit their website at www.poisoncontrol.org.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Be Cautious with Gummy Vitamins

Vitamin gummies are very popular. If you can find a vitamin, you can most likely find it in gummy 


form these days as well. Their similarity in taste and texture to candy gummies can make them very enticing to children. While this encourages children (and adults!) to take their vitamins, it also raises concerns that children might take more than recommended thinking that it is candy. Since the COVID-19 pandemic reached the U.S., the Texas Poison Center Network has seen a 55% increase in calls involving children and vitamins compared to the same time last year. That’s why it is incredibly important to keep any vitamin, especially gummy vitamins locked, up and away like you would do with any other medications in your home.

When it comes to gummy vitamins, they can sometime contain more sugar in them than vitamin benefits. In other cases, vitamins can be downright harmful to children. It is not beneficial to children to get more than the necessary number of vitamins their bodies need, and most children get the nutrients they need from the food they eat every

day. While vitamins can act as a positive supplement where needed, too much of a vitamin can cause harm.

Here are some examples of what can happen if a child gets too much of a certain type of vitamin:

  •       Large quantities of Vitamin A can cause brain swelling, vomiting and distorted vision.
  •           Large quantities of Vitamin D can cause nausea and vomiting as well as liver damage.
  •           Large quantities of Calcium can cause heart problems.

These are just a few examples of how too much of any vitamin can be harmful. Keeping this

information in mind, if children find or have access to gummy vitamins, they might eat them like candy and end up sick. The Texas Poison Center Network has these tips to help keep vitamins and medicines stored safely:

  • Put all medicine up and away and out of sight. Most children easily get into medicines of their parents and grandparents.
  • Consider where you keep your medicines and vitamins stored. Children get into nightstands and purses very easily
  • Save the Poison Help line in your phone: 1-800-222-1222. Put the toll-free number for the Poison Center into your cell phone so you always have it when you need it.

For more information on gummy vitamins or any other type of vitamin or medicine, you can always reach out to the Texas Poison Center Network with your concerns.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

TPCN Spotlight Blog: North Texas Poison Educators Cristina Holloway and Lizbeth Petty


This week we spotlight some of our incredible Texas poison educators. Read below to learn more about our North Texas educators, Cristina Holloway and Lizbeth Petty.

Cristina Holloway



I have worked for the North Texas Poison Center for almost 5 years. With a background in public health and health education, the opportunity to educate ALL people on a subject that they probably know little about and can impact them in a big way was a huge draw to the poison center world for me. It has always been important to me to serve others, especially the under-served. My position as a health educator at the poison center allows me to immerse myself in the varying cultures, cities and neighborhoods of our large region. I love to learn and at the poison center I learn something new every day.


Although as a poison educator I do not answer calls, we do get to hear the types of calls that come in. While some are frightening or even sad, others can offer some serious comic relief. No matter what the caller is calling for, our specialists are there to help.


When we are out educating in the community, we always want the people to know that each time they call they will speak to a trained medical professional. We remind them that the PC is open 24/7, assistance is offered in English & Spanish, and it’s free & confidential. It’s also important that they know that people who answer the phones for poison control are just people, just like them, members of our community that are there to help them.


There are many parts of my job that I enjoy, but the best part is presenting to a group where maybe they don’t want to be there, or they don’t want to hear about a certain topic, but then afterwards being so grateful for the information. I think there is something really refreshing about receiving information in a clear, unbiased, factual way. Our education team prides itself on presenting data driven information to the public.


I think it is important for people to have poison control as a resource for emergency help because oftentimes when an emergency happens, people aren’t sure what to do. Knowing the Poison Help # prepares a family or individual for any poison emergency, and I believe that is empowering.
Now more than ever, having poisoning assistance at your fingertips without even having to leave your home is priceless. No literally, it’s FREE!

Lizbeth Petty


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 a background in Public Health and I knew when I graduated that I was looking for a position in which I could truly be a part of the concerted action to restore and maintain the capacity of the field of Public Health. I get the best of both worlds working within our host institution, Parkland Hospital, which is vital to our community in attending to those who are under-served.

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.

While I do not take calls, I enjoy hearing cases from our SPIs and I take those cases and use them as examples in the community when providing education. I'm also told a lot of stories in the community from my audience.

3. What do you think people need to know about the people who answer the phones for poison control?

I like my audience to connect with me so when I provide education, I am transparent about times I've had to call the Poison Helpline even as an employee. I believe that demonstrates the trust I have for our specialist.

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

I enjoy meeting new people which is why this position is so well suited for me. With just only 4 years underthis role, I am  well known in the community and have made friends basically everywhere I've been.

5. Why do you think it is important for people to have poison control as a resource for emergency help?

This is a service that is not well known but important because it is not exclusive. We are able to provide help to people regardless of their race, gender or age. Accidents or unintentional poisonings can happen to anyone and people need to know that we are there to serve them. It is not an extra service with a fee you can purchase. It is a service willing and ready to help our community.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

One Thing to Look Out for this Summer: Harmful Algal Blooms


The summer heat is on in Texas and that is driving many people to lakes, rivers, and beaches. There have been recent reports throughout Texas of harmful algal blooms (HABs) also known as “red tide”, that in recent years have become an increased health concern.

What are HABs?
For starters, algae are known as a nonflowering plant that lives in water. Most types of algae are harmless. HABs are formed by microscopic algae. Algae can sometimes have an overgrowth in areas, which is usually due in part to increased amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus.
Unfortunately, it seems humans are contributing to this issue. An example of how humans might have contributed to this is by fertilizer running off into nearby water coming from farm fields close by. It might not seem like it has the potential to cause a big problem, but when algae take in these rich nutrients, they can start to grow at alarming rates. When they grow, they turn the water various colors of red (hence, the term “red tide”), brown, yellow, and/or green. It can also create an icky film on the top of the water. If you are out and about at a lake, river, or beach this summer and fall, you might notice the algae in the water. These blooms are most often found in the summer or fall seasons.

Why are they dangerous?
Algal blooms consume oxygen and block sunlight that other marine life and organisms live off. They also produce a toxin that is harmful and can kill fish, other marine animals, and in worst-case scenarios, even people. These toxins are known to accumulate in muscles, clams, scallops, and even oysters. People can become ill when they eat these toxic shellfish.

Symptoms of Algal Bloom Ingestion
·       Numbness and tingling of the face, hands, and feet
·       Nausea
·       Vomiting
·       Diarrhea

If you think you have consumed toxic shellfish, please do not hesitate to contact the Texas Poison Center Network.  We are available 24/7 at 1-800-222-1222.

Additionally, HAB’s can also lead to ciguatera fish poisoning which occurs after the fish are exposed to these same toxins. Luckily, these are usually only found around the Caribbean and Pacific Islands. There is still a risk that you might eat contaminated fish from those regions without knowing it. Symptoms are similar to ones from eating the contaminated shellfish. However, one of the defining symptoms of ciguatera poisoning is sensory reversal, in which cold things feel hot and hot things feel cold. While most individuals will recover without any treatment, the symptoms could last weeks. The most common fish to be poisoned with HABs include hogfish, barracuda, and king mackerel. This is due largely in part because these fish are larger in size and tend to eat smaller fish that have consumed HABs.

Can You Swim in Water with HABs?
Water contaminated with HABs can cause a rash, itching, skin irritation, and nose, eye, and throat irritation. If you have asthma, it can cause you even further discomfort, especially if you accidentally inhale the contaminated water. Even swallowing the water can cause diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.

How do I prevent HABs Poisoning?
Follow these steps to help eliminate your potential for encountering HABs.


·       Always avoid any contact with water that might be discolored or have a scum or film floating on the top of the water.
·       Try to avoid any activities, like playing, swimming, or boating, in water that looks contaminated by HABs.
·       If you see discolored water or view algal scum, please do not fish in these waters.
·       Try not to swallow or drink water that is not treated. These include lakes, streams, and/or rivers.
·       Same steps apply to your pets!

If you do find yourself in contact with HABs, wash your hands with soap and water, then call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222 to speak with a poison specialist that can provide additional information.   

Thursday, June 4, 2020

What You Need to Know About Anti-Anxiety Medications


With COVID-19 continuing to cause disruption in people’s lives, more and more are turning to anti-anxiety medications to help with their stress and anxiety.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax (Alprazolam), Klonopin (Clonazepam), and Ativan (Lorazepam) rose 10.2% in the U.S. to 9.7 million in March 2020 (compared to 8.8 million in March 2019), according to the latest data from health-research firm IQVIA. According to a survey released March 25th by the American Psychiatric Association more than one-third of Americans say the pandemic is having a “serious impact” on their mental health.

While anti-anxiety medications can be helpful in the short term for anxiety issues, they can also be extremely dangerous and sometimes even deadly when taken incorrectly.  Benzodiazepines such as alprazolam, clonazepam, and lorazepam are commonly prescribed to treat anxiety and other medical conditions including seizures and insomnia.  Benzodiazepines work in the central nervous system by binding to GABA receptors which serve as the brakes in the brain, thus blocking excessive activity of the neurons, which causes a calming feeling and helps decrease anxiety.

If these medications are not taken as prescribed, they can be very dangerous. Common side effects include drowsiness, sleepiness and dizziness, among others. If too much of these are taken or if they are mixed with alcohol or other medications such as opioids, an overdose can occur.  Signs of an overdose can include:
·       Extreme drowsiness or trouble staying awake
·       Slurred speech or confusion
·       Agitation
·       Lack of muscle coordination
·       Coma

If you or someone you know is suffering any of these symptoms, please do not hesitate to contact your local poison center in Texas.  If someone is having trouble breathing, call 911. The Texas Poison Center Network is always just a phone call away to assist with questions or concerns about a possible overdose or any other type of poisoning or side-effect at 1-800-222-1222.  Visit our website at www.poisoncontrol.org for more information.

Monday, May 11, 2020

What You Need to Know about the Asian Giant Hornet


Various articles and memes have been circulating social media involving the Asian giant hornets (Vespa mandarinia), which have recently come to be known as “murder hornets”. These articles report that the Asian-based hornets have made their way to the United States, causing concern across the nation.

The Asian giant hornet is the world’s largest at roughly two inches long in length. It has a distinctive black tooth used for burrowing. Its stinger is also very large at about a quarter inch in length.    The concern regarding these hornets is certainly warranted as they do pack a painful sting. Scientists are currently working on locating these wasps and prevent their spread across the US.

The hornets have become infamous on the internet, but this news was originally shared with the public to increase awareness. In the state of Washington, where a couple of spotting’s of these hornets have occurred, information regarding these citing’s was shared to ensure the public would keep a look out for and report any possible nests. The reason we do not want the Asian hornets in the U.S. is due largely in part because they eat and kill honeybees and can be a threat to the honeybee population.

The good news is the Asian giant hornet, a non-native species in the United States, is not found in Texas and the reality of this being a concern for Texans is rare. In fact, mosquitoes, bees and yellow jackets can be more of a concern when it comes to bites & stings. If you are stung by a bee, wasp, or hornet, you can do the following. 

  • Remove the stinger by scraping across the skin with a credit card.
  • Apply ice or cool water for 10 to 30 minutes after the sting.


If you think you have been stung by a bee, wasp, or hornet, contact the Texas Poison Center Network at 1-800-222-1222 for treatment advice. If you are having an allergic reaction that includes difficulty breathing dial 911.  The poison center is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help. For more information on the Asian giant hornet visit https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2020/05/asian-giant-hornets-arrive-united-states/ and for more information on bites and stings visit the Texas Poison Center Network’s website at  www.poisoncontrol.org.

Monday, April 27, 2020

TPCN SPI Spotlight: South Texas Poison Center Arika Mike


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 worked as a SPI for nearing two years, starting at the New Mexico Poison & Drug Information Center and now currently at the South Texas Poison Center. I have had an interest in poison control since I was a student pharmacist at the University of New Mexico College of Pharmacy. I served as Poison Prevention Co-Chair for the Student Society of Health-System Pharmacy professional organization at my school during my 2nd year and completed a rotation at the New Mexico Poison & Drug Information Center during my 4th year. After graduating pharmacy school, I completed a PGY-1 Community Pharmacy Residency with Baylor Scott & White Health. I was able to do a rotation at the Central Texas Poison Center where my passion for poison control grew even further. I appreciate that I get to directly help my community by providing quality information to patients and providers in emergency situations.

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 got a call from a mom recently and her child had got into a Tide Pod that had burst in the child’s mouth, the child was vomiting at the time and mom was very concerned. I told mom that we can watch this at home since it had just happened and sometimes the soap in the Tide Pods can be upsetting to the stomach. I told mom what "red flag" symptoms that she would need to go immediately to the hospital for (continued vomiting, trouble breathing, drowsiness or coughing). When I called back mom didn’t answer, but after the second call a few hours later I was able to speak with mom. She ended up taking the child to the hospital because of drowsiness. The patient developed no further symptoms at the hospital. Mom voiced gratitude for poison control being there to walk her through a scary situation and that I had taken the time to follow-up with her to make sure the child was okay.

3. What do you think people need to know about the people who answer the phones for poison control?
Often callers wonder why we ask so many questions during a call from their child’s weight to whether they have any health problems. I think people need to know that the specialists who answer the phones are healthcare providers who are actively making decisions that impact each individual patient’s care.

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

As a pharmacist I have always enjoyed explaining something that can be complex in a way that a patient can understand. With poison control I am able to do this, and I enjoy working with unique and interesting cases.

5. Why do you think it is important for people to have poison control as a resource for emergency help?

I think it is important for people to have poison control as a resource because many exposures can be managed at home, which is a huge cost saver for patients and for the public.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

How Poison Centers Work and How They Can Help You


Every day, by the hour, lives are being saved. Why? Because of the presence of poison control centers. Across the nation there exist 55 poison centers who assist with various poisoning emergencies as well as answer questions and provide any information to help prevent poisonings. Specially trained poison experts, known as Specialists in Poison Information (SPI), at each poison center include nurses, pharmacists, toxicologists and physicians. They can be reached 24 hours a day by calling the toll-free Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222, which then connects you with your local poison center.
History of a Poison Center
The idea for a poison center came from a part-time secretary from the American Academy of Pediatrics during the early 1950s. The secretary contacted hospitals in Chicago to find out why children were in the emergency room with certain problems. What had they eaten? What did they drink?

At the time, companies did not have to tell people much about the ingredients in their products. The secretary asked companies about the ingredients in their products that might be making children sick. She then asked a group of medical professionals to create treatment guidelines for as many products as possible. When doctors had questions, they would call her, and she would read medical advice to them off the note cards.

Soon after, the U.S. Surgeon General ordered copies of her 1,000 index cards to be sent to health departments across the country. From this, the first poison center was founded, and the idea spread throughout the nation.

What do Poison Centers Offer

·       Help with a poisoning emergency, which can often be treated over the phone rather than calling 911 or visiting the emergency room. (Which saves Emergency Rooms or Ambulance costs)
·       Medical advice for healthcare professionals and the general public.
·       Real-time de-identified data collection that aids in detecting public health emergencies.
·       Free and confidential help, with interpretation services available in over 100 languages.
·       Assistance with pill identification.
·       Help with all types of poisonings including insect, snake or spider bites, plants, household chemicals, medication mix ups or overdoses and more.
·       Poison Prevention Poster and Video Contest Annually 
·       Free educational materials
·       Free educational presentations

What information to have readily available when calling a poison control center?
·       How old is the patient?
·       About how much does the patient weigh?
·       What is the name of the product or substance involved? Be as specific as you can-it can help to have the bottle or packaging with you on the phone. Poison experts use a database that contains detailed information on thousands of products.
·       How much of the substance did the patient swallow, breathe in or get on their skin? If you don't know, the poison specialist will help you estimate.

Based on this information, the poison specialist will tell you what you need to do. It could be as simple as drinking some water or eating a Popsicle. In some circumstances, they may need to send you to the hospital. If so, they will ask which hospital you are closest to and call ahead to let them know you are coming.

The poison center will also collect a little bit of personal information from you for your medical chart-your first name, the patient's first name, your phone number and the zip code you are calling from. This information is confidential. This information is important because it helps us to find your case if you need to call us back for any reason.
For questions or concerns, call the Texas Poison Center Network experts at 1-800-222-1222.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Poison Experts Warn Against Using Medications or Household Products to Prevent Coronavirus


The Texas Poison Center Network wants you and your family to stay safe from the current   
Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. There are many steps you can take to protect yourself and others such as washing your hands frequently, practicing social distancing, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.

While there is no vaccine against or cures for COVID-19, there are reports of products and medications that claim to “cure” or “protect” people from becoming ill circulating the internet; none of them approved for use and some of them potentially harmful.  Please remember that no medication or product should be used for COVID-19 without consulting your physician first. 

Some recent examples include individuals attempting to drink bleach to try and get rid of the coronavirus in their system.  This is of course not helpful and incredibly dangerous and should never be attempted.  Bleach is not intended for human consumption.   
  
Other examples include individuals taking the active ingredient in an anti-malarial drug to fight COVID-19. Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine have been mentioned in many blogs and posts online as a possible “cure”.  They have even made it onto the President’s news conferences.  This came after a recent report that suggested these medications were being tested to treat COVID-19 in other countries.  There has been some improvement in critical patients taking these medications, but they are still in the early stages of testing.  We do know however that these ingredients are highly toxic and have caused many deaths due to ingestion.  There are reports of people who inadvertently have overdosed attempting to treat themselves with these products.   Texas Poison Centers want you to know that these medications and products can cause significant illness with permanent damage or death if taken in the incorrect dose or manner.

If you or someone you know has taken chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine, call the Poison Helpline at 1-800-222-1222 right away. If someone is experiencing seizures, difficulty breathing, turning blue or is unconscious, call 911 immediately.

If you are diagnosed with the COVID-19, please follow your doctor’s instructions and limit contact with others.  There is no specific cure or treatment.  If you are concerned about contracting coronavirus, now is the time to practice social distancing and only leave your home if absolutely necessary, such as for groceries or medications. For more information on COVID-19, please visit www.dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Poison Prevention Week Brings Awareness to the Dangers of Potential Poisons


National Poison Prevention Week, March 15-21, 2020 is quickly approaching, and we want to take
this time to bring awareness to potential poisons and how you can stay safe. 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. Poisonings are currently the leading cause of injury related death in the country. Many of these poisonings can be preventable. And for those that aren’t always preventable, a poison expert is only a phone call away and ready to assist you.

In 2018, poison centers in the US received approximately 2.6 million calls on poison exposures. That means the poison centers averaged a new case about every 12 seconds. According to the Lewin Report, approximately $1.8 billion dollars was the amount of money poison control centers saved Americans in unnecessary medical costs in 2018. Because of these calls, the poison centers were able to help save lives and cut down visits to the emergency room.

Poison centers are an incredible help when it comes to major public health emergencies and epidemics. Since 2011, poison centers have handled over 500,000 calls relating to opioid misuse and abuse. They have also handled calls regarding trending issues such as liquid laundry packets, button batteries, synthetic drugs and, most recently, the coronavirus.

Poison centers assist the public with their poisoning concerns, but they also assist first responders and hospital personnel dealing with poison emergencies. Poison centers are an excellent resource. They even assist in identifying emerging drugs of abuse and provide countless hours of education to healthcare professionals and the general public.   

What is considered a poison?
A poison is any substance, including medications, which can be harmful to your body if ingested, inhaled, injected or absorbed through the skin. Accidental poisoning can occur when a person is unintentionally exposed to a substance without wanting to cause themselves harm.
Poisonings are more common than you think. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), approximately 90 percent of these poisonings are happening at home, with over half of them involving children under six years old.

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 regional poison center.  
  • Keep all poisons locked up, away 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.

What to do if you believe you have been exposed to a potential poison. 
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. Often, the poison control specialist will call back to make sure that things are okay. For more information on preventing poisonings, please visit the Texas Poison Center Network website at www.poisoncontrol.org.



Thursday, March 5, 2020

TPCN SPI Spotlight: Hollie Blair, Central Texas Poison Center


Hollie Blair

1.      Tell me your history with poison control and how you became a Specialist in Poison Information (SPI).
I graduated from pharmacy school in 1990 and worked in retail pharmacy for 5 years before coming to the Poison Center.  During that time, I was diagnosed with undifferentiated spondylarthropy and was unable to stand for a prolonged time due to pain.  As a result, I had to find a job where I could sit down.  I called the College of Pharmacy to talk to some of my prior instructors to see if they had any ideas for where I might be able to work.  Luckily, Doug Borys had called the College of Pharmacy only a few days prior to my call, and he was looking for pharmacists to work at the newly formed Poison Center in Temple.  Talk about good timing!  I interviewed shortly afterward and have been working here at Poison Center for 25 years this June.

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. One story I recall was a toddler that ingested a bite out of his grandmother’s post-mastectomy prosthetic breast!  We assured her it was not toxic but was a choking hazard.  The child remained asymptomatic.

3.      What do you think people need to know about the people who answer the phones for poison control?
The people at the Poison Center may feel like they are playing a game of 20 questions with you, but rest assured they are only gathering information which will help them to make a well-informed recommendation!

4.      What do you enjoy most about your job and why?
The thing I love most about my job is the diversity of calls we get on a daily basis and having the opportunity to help people during a stressful situation.

5.      Why do you think it is important for people to have poison control as a resource for emergency help?
I believe having the Poison Center as a resource for emergency help is vital to the growing burden on our emergency rooms.  If we can determine that a patient can be monitored at home, it will save both time and money for both the patient and the healthcare system in general.