Monday, May 23, 2022

Poison Educator Spotlight: Vannia Atao


1. Tell me your history with poison control and how you became an educator. 

I am currently a graduate student at the University of Texas at Arlington. I am studying to get my MPH with a concentration in epidemiology. I got my undergrad at the same school in public health. I've been in the health care industry for about 10 years. I started my journey as a certified nursing assistant since I originally wanted to be a nurse. Over the course of 4 years, I realized it wasn't for me and stepped away from direct patient care and studying nursing altogether. I spent the next several years finishing up my undergrad and interning at school to popularize the public health program since it was brand new. After college, I landed my first "big girl" job at a women's health company and absolutely loved it. It was a new side of healthcare. I helped develop the back-end processes for patients in telehealth and trained the patient care department on these processes. I worked closely with the company's medical and pharmacy to deliver patients their medication. I decided to go back to school during that time, so I have been doing both since January.

2. Have you heard any stories about calls that surprised you that come into the poison center?

I haven't heard any calls, but I did attend rounds with the toxicologists at work, where I listened to a patient ingesting LSD and still having side effects 48 hours after ingesting it.

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

More people need to know that the people who answer the phone are licensed professionals such as nurses, doctors, and pharmacists, and some are bilingual

4. What do you enjoy most about being an educator and why?

I enjoy being an educator because I love what TPCN stands for. I think this is a resource that everyone needs to know about. I didn't grow up knowing about the poison center and now that I work for NTPC, I tell everyone about it! I also love spreading the good word to kids, parents, and the entire community about the poison center

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

There is definitely a gap of knowledge in the community we serve about having the poison center as a resource. Most people's first instinct is to call 911 when poisoning happens. When people know that the poison center is a free resource, they are more inclined to use it. You never know if the poisoning could be treated easily at home. It might save you time, gas, a trip to ER, and maybe your life. 

The Dangers of Children Ingesting Marijuana (THC) Infused Foods

As more and more states are legalizing marijuana, it makes it easier for kids to accidentally ingest tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) containing foods and candies, also known as edibles.  Parents need to be diligent in keeping their kids safe from accidental exposure to edibles, especially gummies.

What are THC edibles?

THC-infused foods and candies are also known as marijuana edibles.  They look very similar, if not identical, to common everyday foods and candies you can find in any grocery or convenience store. Some examples include:

·       Gummy candies

·       Chocolates & other sweet or tart candies

·       Cookies and other baked goods

·       Lollipops

The primary concern with THC-infused edibles is that they look and taste just like regular foods and candies that don’t contain THC. People may not be able to tell the difference in look or taste between regular items and those infused with marijuana (THC).

Consuming high amounts of THC can cause significant effects.  Consuming any significant amount of THC can cause undesirable effects. Some symptoms of these undesirable effects could include:

·       Altered perception

·       Intoxicated state

·       Anxiety

·       Panic or paranoia

·       Dizziness

It is important to note that a recommended serving size (by the person or manufacturer of the product) for edibles varies greatly by product and can at times be as little as a portion of one piece.  It is also important to note that there is no recommended dose for a child as it is not legal in any state for children to consume.  

Edibles can be potentially dangerous, especially to small children. The effects can be delayed and sometimes take hours to appear.  People experimenting for the first time with THC containing edibles might take more than is recommended, thinking they are not feeling the “effects”.   This can lead to potentially ingesting more than the recommended amount or enough to cause undesirable effects.   Call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222 if you have any questions or concerns about a potential poisoning from a THC-infused product.

For more information on this topic and other poisoning concerns, visit

Monday, April 25, 2022

Panhandle Managing Director Shares the Importance of Drug Takeback Day


  1. What makes you passionate about National Drug Take-Back Day? At the Texas Panhandle Poison Center, we actually started our medication take back program prior to inception of the DEA’s National Take Back Day. It was nice to see a national program begin with similar goals. I am passionate about the medication take back program because it provides the opportunity for families to reduce the risk of medication-related poisonings occurring in their homes. Aside from the fact that young children are poisoned by medications every day, we are in the midst of a crisis with teen suicides. This is occurring primarily in young girls and has become notably worse with the COVID pandemic. Because teens tend to be so impulsive, they can make a split second decision to turn to the family medicine cabinet for relief from life’s burdens. This impulsive decision can lead to illness and even death. By conducting take back events, and reducing or eliminating unused medications from the home, we can effectively reduce the risk of a catastrophic event.
  2. How long have you been involved in this program? Our poison center began conducting take back events in the spring of 2009. We have conducted events bi-annually every year since inception with exception of the first spring following the COVID outbreak. So, we are now at 13 years. Initially, we started the event in our host town of Amarillo. However, recognizing the magnitude of the need for disposal options, we quickly expanded to Abilene and Lubbock. These are all cities in which our host institution, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Jerry H. Hodge School of Pharmacy has campuses, and therefore, we can conduct events at little cost to our program. To date, we have collected almost 70,000 pounds of unused medications and medical sharps for appropriate disposal.
  3. Why is it essential for the TPCN to partner with the DEA on this much-needed resource? The DEA has been an incredible partner for our take back program, as have our local law enforcement entities. In order to remain compliant with regulations, law enforcement presence is required at all events. While the DEA does not provide agents for manning our events, we are able to partner with local law enforcement. The DEA assists with facilitating participation and they help us keep costs down by providing disposal services for the medications that are collected. They work very closely with us to schedule collection pick up and to provide reports regarding the amount collected. We are able to pick up the phone and call them any time we have a question or need their assistance. They are truly part of the team.
  4. Why do you think people hold onto old medications, even when they expire? The general public has received the message that medications should not be disposed of in the trash or by flushing down the toilet or the drain. However, they usually are not told how they CAN dispose of the items. So, the result is that they hang on to them in their homes, sometimes indefinitely. At our events, we frequently see loads of medications brought for disposal following the death of a loved one. These medications may have sat in a closet or medication for years and in many cases, even for decades.
  5. How should people dispose of old or unneeded medication? The current gold standard for medication disposal in through participation in a take back program. But, if a program is not available in an area, there are other options. Many pharmacies and some clinics now have medication disposal kiosks in place. These often include 24-hour Walgreens or CVS locations and some Walmart pharmacies. The DEA maintains a searchable database on their website to help people locate a year-round disposal kiosk. If there is an upcoming event, the DEA database will provide locations near the individual for take back day. After the take back day has concluded, the database will provide year-round sites. This is found at
  6. What if someone cannot get to a medication take-back site? What is the next best way to dispose of the medication safely? If someone cannot get to a take-back site, or if they miss an event, there are other methods for disposal. As mentioned above, year-round disposal kiosks are available in many communities. Also, some local law enforcement agencies have disposal kiosks, so people may want to call their police department or sheriff’s department to ask. If none of these options work, we recommend the “kitty litter” of the “coffee grounds” method for disposal. This involves mixing the medications with something undesirable, like kitty litter or coffee ground, sealing the bag or container, and then disposing of that directly into a trash receptacle – preferable a dumpster or outdoor receptacle that is inaccessible to children or animals.
  7. What is your hope for the outcome when it comes to this program? My hope is that eventually take back days will be unnecessary. If every pharmacy provides access to a medication disposal kiosk, the public would have ready access to a disposal option at any time in any community. And, fortunately, we are moving in this direction, albeit slowly. Our poison center installed a disposal kiosk in our host institution pharmacy in 2016. At that time, it was the only location in our city where people could dispose of their unused medications aside from a take back event. Now, Amarillo has at least 15 separate locations for disposal, including both of our county sheriffs’ departments, CVS, Walgreens, the Amarillo Pharmaceutical Care Center, and others. I’d really also like to see consumers actively work to reduce the number of medications they keep in their homes. When I was young, we didn’t have 24 hour pharmacies or pharmacies that were open on weekends, so it was a necessity to have an “emergency supply”. However, with the convenience we have today, it’s not necessary to do this any longer and it does create a risk. For prescription medications, it would be better if people who are starting a new medication do not get a 90-day fill for their first time. That way, if they don’t tolerate the medication or if it doesn’t work, they are not stuck with all of the excess. We also see a lot of waste occurring due to mail orders. Consumers need to actively call their mail-order companies and ensure that medication delivery is stopped if they already have an adequate supply or if they no longer need it. Once medications are dispensed to the consumer, they cannot be returned due to safety reasons. So, it is really important to get medication delivery stopped ASAP when it’s no longer needed. As consumers, we also need to stop buying large quantities of over-the-counter medications at one time. We may think we are getting a good deal or discount, but if we stop and consider how long it would take to use all of the supply, we would find that the medication is likely to expire before we can use it all.
  8. Can people call the poison control number to get information on where they can dispose of expired or unwanted medications at any time of the year? If anyone has a family member or friend who has ingested a medication they shouldn’t have, they can call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222. This includes those who may have had a toddler or young child who got into medications, as well as older children and even adults who have taken a medication mistakenly or intentionally as a self-harm gesture.
  9. Anything else you would like to add? Science has provided us with many medications that improve our lives from day to day and sometimes even save our lives. But, it’s important to remember that we have a responsibility with those medications, to take them as directed by our healthcare provider, to store them securely, and to dispose of them when they are no longer needed. 

Friday, April 8, 2022

TPCN Spotlight: SPI Michael Tedder


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

I just joined the Central Texas Poison Center at the beginning of March. For the last six years, I have worked as an ER nurse and when I saw the ope ING for the Poison Center so close to home I just felt it was the right time to make a change. 

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 really have not been involved with enough cases to have any good stories yet, but I have heard some good ones and I look forward to collecting my fair share. 

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

I have seen that there is a lack of understanding by much of the general public that we are the go-to resource for poisonings and envenomations. 

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

Right now I am really enjoying learning about an entirely different aspect of Healthcare and the challenges that this shift in my practice brings. 

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

With the rising costs of Healthcare, and pretty much everything else, we serve as an essential resource for people experiencing a poisoning emergency. Helping to keep those who do not need to be in the emergency department at home and ensuring those resources are there for those that need them are more important than ever.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Celebrate Poison Education Month and Poison Prevention Week by Being Prepared

March is a big month for poison control. Throughout March, the Texas poison centers will participate in educational events in schools, libraries, and online. They will also celebrate a significant week, Poison Prevention Week, March 20-26, 2022. This time of year is a great reminder to become better informed about keeping yourself and others safe from unintentional poisonings.

As we focus on ensuring that our families and ourselves do not get unintentionally poisoned, now is a great time to take a walk around your home and see if it is poison safe! In this blog, we will share a few tips to keep your home safe at all times of the year.

First, when we think of poisons, we usually think of dangerous chemicals or items you might find under your kitchen sink or in the garage. The poison centers get calls for all types of unintentional poisonings, whether from a bite or sting, a medication mix-up, or a plant. There are so many different calls that come into a poison center. While thoughts of accidental poisonings can be scary, the poison control toll-free helpline (1-800-222-1222) is there when you need it the most.

Essential Facts and Tips to Remember

·       The most common exposures are to medicines, plants, pesticides, and cleaning products in children six and under.

·       Child-resistant packages do NOT mean childproof. Most two-year-olds can open a child-resistant container in 4 to 5 minutes or less. It is best to keep medicines locked up and away and out of reach for children.

·       Calling 1-800-222-1222 from anywhere in the United States will connect you to a local poison center. The poison centers are available 24/7.

·       Never refer to medicine (prescription, vitamins, or otherwise) as candy, as children may mistake tiny pills or medication in gummy or candy form as actual candy.

·       Check furnaces annually. Make sure carbon monoxide detectors are in the house and checked multiple times a year. This is especially important for the winter months.

·       Stay out of wooded overgrown areas. This will help to prevent insect stings, snake bites, or coming in contact with a poisonous plant.

·       Remind grandparents and other caretakers to poison-proof their homes before bringing little ones over.

If you or someone with you has been unintentionally poisoned, remember first to remain calm. Then call the toll-free Poison Help line right away at 1-800-222-1222. Stay on the phone with the poison control specialist and follow all the instructions. 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

Thursday, February 10, 2022

COVID-19 At-Home Test Kits: Beware of Potential Dangers

The Texas Poison Center Network wants to warn people about the potential dangers involving COVID-19 at-home test kits. Since COVID-19 at-home test kits are available to every home in the U.S,  over 60 million people have ordered them. Poison centers are receiving calls, and many of these calls come from people (mainly small children) ingesting the liquid, also known as the reagent, in the COVID at-home test kits.

The chemicals in the test kits can vary, but the most common chemical in test kits is called sodium azide. You might be familiar with it because it is the chemical used in airbags to make them deploy. In large quantities, sodium azide is poisonous. Fortunately, the amount of sodium azide in COVID-19 test kits is minimal and mainly used as a preservative.

It is important to read the directions thoroughly as this chemical is not meant for ingestion. It should be kept locked, up and away, and out of reach of children. Accidentally swallowing it could cause nausea and vomiting. If accidentally splashed or used in the eye, it could cause burning and irritation. Make sure to clean your eye out with warm water for at least 30 seconds and call poison control at 1-800-222-1222 right away.

For more information on COVID-19 at-home test kits or any concerns regarding these kits, don't hesitate to get in touch with your local poison center any day or time of the week. We staff specialists in poison information who are ready to take your call and bring you peace of mind when you need it the most.