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

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

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.