Thursday, December 21, 2017

Poison Safety Holiday Tips from the Texas Poison Center Network

It is the most wonderful time of year! The magic of Christmas and Santa brings lots of joy this season, but it can also bring nausea, vomiting or other bodily reactions if you are not careful. The Texas Poison Center Network wants to help you avoid any unintentional poisonings, so check out our holiday poison safety tips below to keep you & your loved ones safe!

Food Safety

·         Wash Your Hands! Whenever you are preparing food, it is so important to wash your hands before, during and after to prevent food poisoning. (And spreading germs!)

·         Always make sure to cook food well to reduce potential poisoning- poultry-180 degrees F, beef-160 degrees F and pork-160 degrees F.  Cover and reheat leftovers to 165 degrees Fahrenheit before serving.

·         Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.. If food is left out at room temperature for more than two hours, bacteria can grow and sickness can ensue. This means leftovers should be put up right away.

·         Never use unvented fuel-burning devices in a home or apartment, because carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning can occur. Read our blog on CO poison safety here.

·         Remember, contaminated food is not always evident. If you are unsure if an item is still okay to eat, it is probably best to throw it out. Safety first!

Potentially Dangerous D├ęcor

Tree Ornaments: Some ornaments are made of very thin metal or glass. If a child were to ingest part of an ornament, it could potentially cause them to choke. Practice safety first when choosing ornaments to use on your tree with little ones in the home. You can find lots of ornaments offered in stores that are unbreakable and best to use around children.

Gift Wrap: Overall, gift wrapping paper is pretty safe. But it is possible for some colored gift wrap or foil to contain lead. Don’t let babies chew on paper as a precaution.

Holiday Plants

Poinsettia: The poinsettia’s reputation is worse than it merits. In reality, the poinsettia is a minimally poisonous plant. If ingested in very large amounts it may cause varying degrees of irritation to the mouth, nausea or vomiting. The sap on the plant can also cause a skin rash, so when handling these plants, make sure to wash your hands with soap and water afterwards as a precaution.

Holly berries: While these berries are visually appealing, if ingested they can cause a stomach ache, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Keep these berries out of reach of children.

Mistletoe: If this plant is ingested, it can leave you feeling a little crummy. Common symptoms of ingestion can include vomiting, diarrhea and stomach ache.

Remember, as always, if you or someone you know is potentially poisoned, please do not hesitate to contact the Poison Control hotline at 1-800-222-1222. We hope everyone has a safe holiday season!

Monday, November 20, 2017

TPCN Spotlight: Specialist in Poison Information (SPI)

1. Tell me your history with poison  control and how you became a SPI. (Length of time worked  there/background/passion for this, etc.)

Hi I am Misty Wilcken RN CSPI-2. I completed my Bachelor of chemistry in 2001.  My first job  out of college was as a synthetic organic chemist.  I  worked for UTMB in the Synthetic Chemistry Core Laboratory  for 5 years prior to changing my career.  I completed UTMB BAC2 accelerated nursing school and received a second  Bachelor degree in Nursing.  I started my nursing career working for Shriners Burn pediatric ICU. 

Due to hurricane Ike, I was forced to find another position.  I had hoped to  find something challenging that involved the community and  children, and I found just that when I was hired on as a  Specialist in Poison Information in 2009.  My background  has allowed me to excel in this field.  I love calming  panicked moms, and advising other health care professionals  with regards to things like envenimations, ingestions,  drug overdoses, and chemical exposures. I also love learning  something new every day in the broad fields of pharmacology  and toxicology. 

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.

 Some of the scariest stories are people putting chemicals or drugs in  food containers or in beverage bottles.  Kids drinking lighter fluid thinking it is water or tiki torch fuel thinking it is apple juice.  I also had a lady call about her husband eating hair relaxer.  She had put in a sour  cream container, and had left it in the fridge, and he put  it on his baked potato.

I also remember a case where a dad  had picked up his brothers impounded car and cleaned it  out.  He put what he thought was just Gatorade in his  fridge and the kids drank it.  The kids ended up in the ER intoxicated off ecstasy.  They had to get a hold of the  brother in jail to find out what was in the Gatorade. People  bring stuff home from work like cleaners, and pesticides in  water bottles and someone drinks it. It is very common for people to put bleach in a cup to clean it and then turn around and drink it on accident.

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

 A good part of our service involves triage.  We try to keep people  out of the emergency rooms if possible.  Half of our calls  are concerning 1-3 year olds who think pills are candy, and all  liquids are beverages.  They get the pill minders, and pill  bottles, and at least try the pills.  They also try to  drink nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol, bleach, hydrogen  peroxide, and bottles of liquid medicine.  We advise the  parents what to watch for and decide if they should go to  the emergency room for observation and possible treatment.  We are also  here to answer questions about medication errors, other accidental ingestion's, bites and stings,  and drug interactions.

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

 I enjoy talking people through their often  scary situations, and saving them a trip to the ER, if  possible.  I am glad to be a resource for other medical  professionals when they call for consultation, and sometimes  helping them save a life.  I like learning about the drugs,  plants, critters, and chemicals. There is something new I  have to research almost every day.  I also like that we keep track of the cause and effect, so that we can better  treat these situations in the future.

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

We are an important resource for the public  and for health care professionals.  We save a lot of money  in unnecessary ER visits and are a reliable source of information.  We are available 24 hours to answer questions and give advice. We put a lot of people's minds at ease.  They  look stuff up online and panic, and then call us to get a  professional opinion.



Friday, October 20, 2017

Halloween Hazards to be on the Lookout for this Year

As we get closer to the end of October, many schools, organizations and parks will be hosting a variety of Halloween themed events. While this is an exciting time for youngsters to get dressed up in their favorite costumes, it can also be a time when dangers can be hiding all around us.

The Texas Poison Center Network (TPCN) wants you to enjoy your Halloween festivities safely! 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 (examples include: tears, pinholes, discoloration, etc.) before eating or allowing children to eat. If you suspect any candy has been tampered with, please do not hesitate to report it to police.

·         Check all candy and edibles for any possible 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.

·         Limit the amount of candy ingested at one time. If too much candy is eaten at once, it can cause tummy aches.


·         Test face makeup on 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.

·         If applying costume makeup to the face, avoid getting to close to the eyes and make sure to remove all makeup before bedtime to prevent irritation.

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

Glow in the Dark Jewelry or Glow Sticks:

·         These are usually used by parents to keep kids visible at night while they are trick-or-treating. Be careful as children can break these open and get the liquid on their hands, eyes, and/or mouth.

·         If this happens, wash the affected area with water and/or rinse the eyes thoroughly.

·         If any amount is ingested, contact your local poison center for additional information. 
Check out this video on glow stick safety from our West Texas Regional Poison Center:

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

Friday, October 6, 2017

TPCN Spotlight: Specialist in Poison Information Serena Frederick

1. Tell me your history with poison control and how you became a SPI.

My name is Serena Frederick and I am a Specialist of Poison Information II, Certified (C-SPI II) at the Southeast Texas Poison Center in Galveston, Texas.  I have worked here since January 2011 "this time" but actually worked here for a 6 month period in 1987.  I am a Registered Nurse, and have been in Nursing for a total of 33 years now and have nursing experience in Critical Care, Psychiatry, Orthopedic Surgery, and Reproductive Endocrinology. In 1987 I was not "seasoned enough" and had not enough life and work experience to feel like I would be able to contribute to the Poison Center, so went back to inpatient nursing after 6 months here.  I am now "seasoned" , and with the advent of technology have been able to fulfill the requirements of the role and the needs of the Center by making this part of my nursing career, coming back and making it a win-win-win for Center-Self-Client.

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 so VERY many cases and stories and calls that come through that are memorable.  Some have been scary (ER code in progress, EMS on scene, multiple exposures at the same time) and others have been "lighter" in their nature.  The calls that are most memorable though are the ones where the client on the receiving end of the call relates to you how much better they feel after talking with you, how you helped them to calm down during their event, how you have made a difference in their experience and led them to understanding.

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

I would like people to know that we SPI's that answer the phone are well-educated, well-trained, and non-scripted professionals that can think "on the fly" and approach each call based on what the needs for that particular caller are in light of the exposure information that is provided to us.  We ask a lot of questions, but NOT because of a "box to fill" but because we need specific information to give the best information to the caller to help make a decision in an educated and "non-guess" or "purely by the book" approach.  We are real, live persons on the other end: no apps, no dialogue algorithms, no computer program that tells us what to say......we are for REAL!

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

This job is challenging, and I like that.  There is not a day that goes by where I do not learn something new during the shift.  You could never make the claim that this job would allow you to become "intellectually stale" because you have to be able to think off the grid, on the fly, out of the box and be on GO at all times!  There is never any way to know WHAT is going to come over the line with each specific call, so being receptive and objective, and being able to engage the caller is critical....I believe it is called "people skills" !

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

I know that we can prevent a lot of unnecessary trips to the Emergency Services for the general public. We also provide a high-level professional resource for the medical community.  The most important calls to me though are the ones where you actually can help someone get direction to get IN TO the Emergency Services system when they need to, because every time that is done there is potentially a life that may have been saved!  What a great reward, knowing in your heart and soul that you actually helped someone who otherwise not have been helped or known where to turn!


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

How Poison Centers Can Help During National Preparedness Month

In Texas, we were recently reminded by Hurricane Harvey of why being prepared for a national disaster is so incredibly important. September is National Preparedness Month which not only entails making sure that you are more prepared, but that you also have the right tools in place for whatever emergency comes your way. The Texas Poison Center Network is here to help with any questions you have during natural disasters and we hope these tips will help you create a kit for your family.

Emergency preparedness encompasses four important steps:
·         Get or create a disaster preparedness kit (Check out this list from the

·         Make a plan so your family knows what to do when a disaster happens (Check out this family communication plan from FEMA:

·         Be informed so you know what to do when disaster strikes your area (Sign up for alerts in your area:

·         Get involved in preparing your community (FEMA shares ways you can get involved:

How can the Poison 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.

§  Poison center staff handles 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.

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

§  Poison centers alleviate fear. As a 24 hour resource, you can contact them at ANYTIME with concerns or issues that you would like more information about.

The Poison Help Hotline is such an important resource to the community 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. They are here to help!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

How to Find Help during Natural Disasters

Recently, tragedy struck when Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast and made its way inland causing major flooding, power outages, heavy winds and more. While this disaster is still occurring in some parts of Texas, many people are already looking for help from caring for their health needs and traumatic stress issues to thinking of rebuilding and everything in between.   The Texas Poison Center Network is here to help and can be a great resource that’s just a phone call away at 1-800-222-1222.

Health Precautions
After flooding and power outages, citizens should be aware that local drinking water might not be safe to drink. Make sure to use bottled water for drinking and cooking or boil water before drinking if bottled water is not available.  This should continue until notice is given by your city or town leadership that the water is safe to drink. If you must use boiled water for cooking or drinking, make sure you let it boil for at least two minutes from when you first begin to see the bubbles.  Make sure the water has completely cooled before drinking it. When it comes to food, if any of it has come in contact with flood water, throw it out - do not eat it! It could make you sick or worse. If you have lost electricity for longer than 4 hours, you should discard the food that required refrigeration.  Remember to always wash your hands with soap and clean water (boiled or bottled) before eating or drinking anything when you are busy cleaning up after a flood. You never know what could be in the water and you want to make sure not to infect your body with any bacteria.

Traumatic Stress Issues
Anytime a natural disaster as devastating as Hurricane Harvey occurs, it is important to remember the trauma and stress that any survivors endured.  When people lose their homes, personal belongings, or are put in situations that can be life threatening, it is normal to experience emotional distress like feelings of worry, anxiety, trouble sleeping or even depression.  Some examples of emotional distress include:

·         Fear that storms will get worst even if the forecast predicts the chances are low.
·         Difficulty handling emotions like anger, fear, anxiety, worry, or difficulty with participating in everyday activities like cleaning or caring for children.   
·         Having memories or nightmares of the tragic events experienced during the storm.
If someone you know is experiencing these symptoms for longer than two weeks, it is important for them to reach out for help. They can call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 for support and counseling needs. The hotline is available 24/7 and is answered by trained and caring counselors.

General Safety Precautions

·         Do not run gas-powered generators or use gas or charcoal grills indoors. These can cause carbon monoxide to build up indoors and can be extremely dangerous and even fatal.  This is why carbon monoxide is known as the “silent killer”.
·         Do not let children play in the flood water.  Flood water could be very toxic and can have animals or debris floating that could be very dangerous.  Keep your children safe.
·         After a flood, make sure to disinfect all furniture and household surfaces/items that have been in contact with flood water. Use a solution of one cup of bleach per five gallons of water and wipe down all parts exposed.
·         If you have a cut or a wound that was exposed to flood water, there is a risk of contracting tetanus. Make sure you get a tetanus vaccination if it has been longer than 10 years since your last shot.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Dangers of Too Much Caffeine

Caffeine has been used by mankind for centuries. Caffeine is a common substance found in products that we use every day, from medications to sodas and energy drinks. Also known as a stimulant drug, caffeine can have many risks if consumed in excess and in a short amount of time. 

Recently, a teen in South Carolina lost his life after drinking several caffeine-containing drinks. The 16-year-old had consumed a large soft drink, a latte and an energy drink over a short period and later collapsed at his high school. The cause of his death was “probable arrhythmia”; otherwise known as an abnormal beating of the heart.
While caffeine is generally considered safe for most adults in small quantities, too much can be dangerous and as in the case above, even deadly.  Since caffeine is a stimulant and can make the heart beat faster or irregularly, it is important to limit the amount of caffeine consumed.  Taking large amounts can also lead to increased urination which can result in a loss of essential nutrients and electrolytes that can also affect the heart.      

Taking too much caffeine can cause nausea, anxiety, tremors, irregular or increased heartrate, and vomiting.  If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms after ingesting a caffeine containing product, contact the Texas Poison Center Network at 1-800-222-1222 for help. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Dangers of Too Much Benadryl and Other Antihistamines in Young Children

The Texas Poison Center Network wants to warn you and your loved ones about the potential dangers of antihistamines such as Benadryl following the tragic death of several children. According to the state’s Child Fatality Review Panel, there were at least four infant and toddler deaths related to the use of Benadryl or similar antihistamines in Connecticut. Benadryl and other similar antihistamines are known to be toxic to young children.  An antihistamine is a type of medicine used to help with allergy relief such as sneezing and congestion. These medications contain diphenhydramine, which can cause drowsiness. They are not recommended for children under the age of four, mainly due to the negative effects they can have on the body.

Additional side effects in children include:

- Irritability
- Nervousness
- Seizures
- Nightmares
- Headaches and sometimes blurred vision
-Nausea or diarrhea

Because children are still growing, they are more susceptible to these medications, putting them at greater risk than that of an adult. Doctors rarely prescribe these types of medications to young children, and if they do, it is under strict supervision. If you or a loved one has ingested Benadryl or a similar antihistamine, please contact the Texas Poison Center Network at 1-800-222-1222. We are available 24/7 to answer any concerns or questions.

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

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

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!