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.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Bites and Stings and Itching- Oh My!

Summer time is in full force which means the bugs and snakes are out and about! While no one ever wants to have encounters with dangerous bugs or snakes, sometimes it cannot be helped. The important ones to keep an eye out for are the ones that can be harmful and are considered venomous. The Texas Poison Center Network wants you to be aware of dangers you and your loved ones could come across this time of year.

Snakes to Look Out for in Texas


A cottonmouth snake can reach lengths of up to five feet long. Commonly called a water moccasin, these snakes enjoy being near bodies of water and are usually are dark black color with wide bands on its body. This type of snake can be aggressive so keep your eyes open when playing by lakes, ponds and rivers.


Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
The Western Diamondback rattlesnake is one of the most common snakes you will find in Texas. It can reach lengths of up to seven feet and has a triangular shaped head. They will often times spend their days hiding in low-growing shrubs or rocks. The most identifiable part of this snake is their rattle but it is also covered in a diamond-shaped pattern, hence its name. They are not usually aggressive unless their habitat is disturbed or threatened, so watch where you are walking when out on hikes!


These snakes reach about 30 inches long and have a reddish-brown head with coppery bodies. These snakes are usually not aggressive and most people only get bitten by accidently stepping on them. The reason it might be easy to step on one is because they blend in so well with oak leaves and other vegetation. Make sure you are aware of your surroundings and where you are walking when in wooded or park areas.

Coral Snake

Coral Snake
This snake is the most colorful of the bunch, only reaching about 2 feet in length. They are not too hard to miss with their bright red, black and yellow rings on the body. Coral snakes can be extremely dangerous due to their venom, especially in children. Their mouths are quite small so they have an easier time of biting young children than they do an adult. It is best to avoid these snakes and remember the saying: Red touching yellow, kills a fellow, while red touching black, venom they lack!
Creepy Crawlers to Look Out for in Texas

Bugs love the heat, especially the ones that bite! From mosquitoes and bees to flies and fleas, here is a list of the ones you should really keep your eye out for!

Bees and Wasps

You might see some wasps, yellow jackets, bees or hornets buzzing around your home. If so, they most likely have built a nest somewhere on the outside of your home or in hollow places that do not get disturbed. When it is light out, look around your home to see if you can find the nest.  If so, you should call a professional to take care of it.  Never try to remove the nest yourself.  Keep in mind that if the nest is not dealt with properly, there can be dangerous consequences up to and including death from multiple stings.  Anyone with a possible allergy to these bugs can find themselves in a life-threatening situation from even a single sting. 


Black Widow
The good news is most spiders are not dangerous to humans.   In Texas, the two spiders to keep an eye out for are the brown recluse and the black widow. Both of these spiders like to  
Brown Recluse
hang out in dark areas where there isn’t much draft. The only time they might bite is if they feel threatened. Unfortunately, with most spider bites, you won’t even feel them. That is why it is important that anytime you find a suspecting bite on your body or your child’s, that you call the poison center for treatment recommendations.

Mosquitoes are peskier than anything, but they can also carry some icky diseases including West Nile Virus and malaria. The best way to avoid mosquitoes around your home is to get rid of any standing water, including bird baths. Standing water is the perfect breeding spot for mosquitoes. The best time to stay indoors to reduce your chances of being bitten is at twilight/during the evening when they are most active.  If you must go out at this time, make sure you use mosquito repellent on all exposed areas.

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

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

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

K2: A Dangerous Drug with Scary Consequences

It’s been all over the news lately. Case after case of kids ending up in the emergency room due to use of K2 or a similar synthetic compound. In Austin, Texas alone, officials have treated roughly 390 patients and responded to 355 calls regarding K2 only within a month’s time frame (May 29 to June 29, 2015).

K2, also referred to as “Spice” is a mix of dried plans and herbs that have been sprayed with a compound similar to THC, the psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana. Cases of people using K2 have increased exponentially in the past several months which is why we want to warn you of the dangers of using this dangerous drug.

Below are some common symptoms that come from using K2:

·         Heart rate and blood pressure both get to low levels

·         Higher body temperatures

·         In some cases seizures

·         Violent and aggressive behavior

·         Anxiety and paranoia

·         Hallucinations

·         Drowsiness

·         Vomiting

When it comes to K2 and other synthetic compounds, you should protect yourself and stay away from these very harmful drugs. If you or someone you know has used K2, please do not hesitate to contact a Texas Poison Center today for help. It could potentially save you emergency room visit fees and your health. Do you have questions concerning these drugs? Call us about that too- 1-800-222-1222. Poison Control is here to help!

Monday, June 15, 2015

It’s National Safety Month: Learn More about Prescription Painkiller Abuse

Did you know that injuries are the leading cause of disabilities for all ages and the leading cause for death in Americans age 1 to 44 years old? It’s important to practice safety first whether it be transportation safety, emergency preparedness or even slips, trips and falls. But the main issue plaguing many Americans these days is prescription painkiller abuse and this is a major safety issue when it comes to people’s lives.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that prescription painkiller abuse has reached epidemic levels. Deaths by overdose of painkillers have surpassed the deaths from heroin and cocaine combined. It was reported in 2010 that roughly 12 million Americans reported non-medical use of prescription painkillers in that year alone. Why are Americans abusing painkillers? Most state they use the drugs just to enjoy the “high”.
Want to hear some even scarier data? There were enough painkillers prescribed in 2010 alone that could essentially medicate every adult in the U.S. for an entire month! While these prescriptions were legally prescribed, many of the medications still end up in the hands of people they are not prescribed for leading to incredible amounts of misuse and abuse. Some popular prescription painkillers include: Vicodin, OxyContin and methadone.

The Texas Poison Center Network wants you to know that we can fix this epidemic and change statistics for the better. Here’s what you can do to help eliminate prescription painkiller abuse:

·         If you are prescribed pain medication, never share your prescription with anyone.

·         Make sure to use the prescription only as directed by your healthcare provider.

·         Store medications in a secure location and out of reach of children.

·         Read warning labels because some medications cannot be taken with certain things including alcohol.

·         Keep medication in its proper bottle or original container.

·         Monitor the use of prescriptions by children and teenagers to ensure they do not misuse or abuse.

·         Dispose of medication properly when you no longer need it. (  

·         Participate in National Drug Take Back Days that take place in your community.

If you have concerns regarding prescription painkillers and the use or abuse of them, please do not hesitate to contact your local Texas poison center. Dial 1-800-222-1222 for immediate help and assistance today- they are available around the clock for your poisoning concerns and needs.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Dangers from Flooding that You Don’t Always Hear

Within the past month, several major areas of Texas have been hit with severe flooding leaving damage to people’s homes and properties including the loss of loved ones.  While we know flooding can be dangerous, there are sometimes hidden dangers that come with high floods in usually dry areas.

The Texas Poison Center Network wants to share with you some dangers that can persist after the floodwaters have subsided so that you stay informed and keep your family safe from potential poisons. Check out the list compiled below on things to look out for in flooded or recently flooded areas.


·         With all the rain, snakes, including venomous ones, have been washed up into areas where they might not usually be seen. If you see a snake, try to avoid it at all costs. For your own safety, do not handle any wildlife.

·         If you are bitten by a snake, please seek medical attention and contact a poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 for immediate help and advice on appropriate first aid that should be done on site. Additionally our nurses, pharmacists and physicians can tell you what NOT to do as many misconceptions and myths persist in regards to snakebites.


·         Standing water is a breeding ground for pesky mosquitos. Make sure you drain any standing water around your home including empty buckets, cans and even flowerpots.

·         Mosquitos may become a real nuisance after all the rain, so make sure you use a repellent that contains DEET (for children over the age of 2 months, applied once a day) to help avoid mosquito-borne illnesses. Please follow the directions on the label for its use.  

·         If possible, avoid being outside at dusk and dawn. If you have to be outside, wear clothing that provides optimal coverage.

Contaminated water

·         Keep children away from standing flood water or storm drains. The water could be contaminated and unsafe.

·         One of the biggest threats is posed by fecal coliform bacteria contamination in floodwater. Fecal coliform bacteria, such as E.coli from human and animal waste, gets stirred up during a flood.  In addition, follow “boil water” alerts that may be issued and do not drink water from unknown sources.

·         Flooded homes might now have issues of mold. It is best to hire a professional to have this checked out and ensure your home is safe to live in.

Lack of electricity

·         If you are in an area without electricity, please use precautions when using generators and other power or heat sources that might produce carbon monoxide.  Carbon monoxide poisoning in the home is very dangerous and because it is a colorless and odorless gas, it can happen without you even being aware.

·         For more info on carbon monoxide poisoning, please see

 If you have any questions concerning toxins or poisons associated with floods, please do not hesitate to contact the Texas Poison Center Network. They are waiting to help you 24/7 at 1-800-222-1222.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

May Marks Food Allergy Month

During the month of May, we want you to be aware of food allergies and how they can affect your health. It’s Food Allergy Action Month and we are encouraging Texans to take action and become better informed about the dangers of food allergies.

It is important that the public stay informed and read labels on the food they buy. If you or a family member suffers from a food allergy, this is especially important. Nearly 30,000 individuals within the United States make a trip to the emergency room each year to get treated for an allergic reaction to a food they have consumed.

What is a food allergy?

A food allergy results when the immune system mistakenly targets a harmless food protein, also known as an allergen, as a threat and attacks it. A food allergy can cause serious risk to your body which is why awareness is incredibly important.

What are the symptoms of food allergy?

Here are a list of the most common symptoms:

• Hives, itching, or skin rash
• Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat, or other parts of the body
• Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting
• Dizziness or lightheadedness

If the allergy becomes life-threatening, symptoms can include:

• Swelling of the throat making it difficult to breathe
• Wheezing or nasal congestion
• An extreme drop in blood pressure
• A rapid or irregular pulse
• Loss of consciousness

It is important to protect your family and know what food allergies could potentially be dangerous to you and them. If you suspect you or someone in your family might have a food allergy, please take the time to visit your primary care physician or an allergist to be evaluated, diagnosed and treated. For more information on diagnosis and testing of food allergies, please visit

If you are concerned about a possible food allergy or any type of reaction to your body, or have any questions about poison, please do not hesitate to contact the Texas Poison Center Network for help 24/7 at 1-800-222-1222. If the allergic reaction is life-threatening, please call 9-1-1.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Beware of a New Street Drug Called “Flakka”

A dangerous new synthetic drug has been showing up on the streets. Known as “flakka”, it is very similar in nature to bath salts and has very serious side effects if ingested. The name of the drug comes from its similarity to gravel. What makes this drug incredibly dangerous is that it is currently cheap and legal.

Here’s what you need to know:

-It’s also called “$5 insanity” because it causes users to have severe delusions and develop an almost super human strength
-It is highly addictive
-It can be swallowed, snorted, injected or even put in an e-cigarette

-The health problems can be significant with body temperature levels reaching 105 or 106 degree Fahrenheit thus causing kidney damage among other issues
-It is a designer drug that not even toxicology tests can detect

If you or someone you know has ingested flakka, immediately call a Texas poison control center for assistance at 1-800-222-1222.

Synthetics Forum May 6th

Calls to Poison Centers about synthetic drugs are on the rise across the country. We're proud to announce that Dr. Ashley Haynes of the North Texas Poison Center, in collaboration with the Collin County Substance Abuse Coalition and Children's Health, will be a presenter at a one-of-a-kind synthetics forum "Lethal High: How Synthetic Drugs are Killing Youth" for health care professionals on May 6. To register for the event, please click here:


Monday, April 6, 2015

Celebrate National Public Health Week April 6th-12th, 2015!

National Public Health Week is a great time to get better informed about your health and an important time to highlight health issues that are significant to you and your community. According to the American Public Health Association (APHA), the United States trails other countries in life expectancy and other measures of good health for all ages. While the U.S. has some of the best doctors in the world, our health still ranks poorly when compared to other countries.

The Texas Poison Center Network (TPCN) wants to remind the public that poisonings are still the number one cause of injury-related deaths in the United States. By becoming better informed and taking the right precautions, we can help change this. Poison prevention is critical to the health of this nation. The most important tool the poison centers provide the public with is the national poison control toll-free number, 1-800-222-1222. Experts in toxicology, trained nurses, doctors and pharmacists are all waiting by the phone to answer your calls regarding poison-related questions, concerns or injuries.

Here are some important health tips from the TPCN:

-Always store medications up and out-of-reach of children. It is vital that children do not have access to medications without adult supervision.

-If you are unsure about taking two types of medications together, please contact the poison center for assistance.

-Never share medications with others that are prescribed to you.

-Keep potential poisons in their original container.

-Do not sniff chemical containers if you do not know what is inside. This can be extremely dangerous to your health.

If you do come in contact with a potential poison, please do not hesitate to contact the Texas poison helpline at 1-800-222-1222. Today is a great time to go ahead and save this number in your phone. You never know when you might need it!

During this week, take the time to engage with others to figure out how we as a nation can change the health of America so that it is a leading country in public health. And most importantly, learn about poison prevention to ensure you and your family stay safe and healthy.