Summertime fun…but beware…poisonings still happen

Summer is usually a time for enjoying picnics, swimming and grilling out. It can also be a time for more poisonings because the days are longer and children are outdoors more. As the seasons and weather change, so do the types of calls to the Nebraska Regional Poison Center. Some examples of calls to the Poison Center in the summer months include; bites and stings, insect repellents, hydrocarbons, glow sticks, fireworks, food poisoning, and swimming pool chlorine.

Bites and Stings: This category can include bee stings, spider and snake bites. Close observation for an allergic reactions is important, especially in the first hour after a sting. Ice is ok for most stings and bites, with the exception of snake bites. Some of the old wives tales on treating bites and stings aren’t always correct. Always call the Poison Center for assistance.

Insect Repellents: Only use insect repellents that are meant to be used on the skin. Avoid over-application. The long word for DEET is N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide. Most labels will have the long chemical word listed. Use concentrations < 20%. A higher concentration does not mean that the product will work better, rather it means that it will be effective for a longer period of time. Use repellents only when outdoors and wash skin with soap and water when coming in. Picaridin is an odorless synthetic ingredient found in some bug repellents and is a safe alternative to use on children. Follow all label directions.

Hydrocarbons: This category can include gasoline, kerosene, lighter fluids and torch fuels. The hydrocarbon group is slick and oily. One of the main risks with ingestion is that it may “slip” into the lung causing a chemical pneumonia. Store all of these products in the original container and well out of reach of little hands.

Glow Sticks: Glow sticks are a common call to the Poison Center.  The liquid on contact with mouth, skin and eyes can be irritating.

Fireworks: Fireworks may contain a number of toxic chemicals and can be dangerous if swallowed. Always call the Poison Center for case specific recommendations.

Food Poisoning: When firing up the grill or heading to a picnic, it’s important to take some precautions. Remember to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. The USDA recommends fully cooking all meats to ensure bacteria are destroyed to prevent food poisoning. Meats should be cooked to 160 degrees. Always use a food thermometer.

Swimming pool chlorine: When too much chlorine is added to water in a swimming pool, contact with the skin and eyes may result in redness and a burning sensation. If you suspect an overly chlorinated pool, rinse your skin and eyes immediately, contact the lifeguard/pool manager, and call the Poison Center. Chlorine from an indoor pool, or opening a container of chlorine pool tablets may cause coughing or tightness in the lungs. Seek fresh air immediately.


The Nebraska Regional Poison Center is a free community service to the public.

Call 1-800-222-1222 and talk immediately to a Registered Nurse or Pharmacist 24/7/365.

Text “poison” to 797979 to save the contact information for the poison center in your smart phone.

57th Annual Poison Prevention Week

Did you know the Nebraska Regional Poison Center as well as all poison centers across our nation never close?  In 1961, Congress established National Poison Prevention Week to raise awareness, reduce unintentional poisonings, and promote poison prevention. Each year, more than 2 million poisonings are reported to the nation’s poison centers, which can be reached by calling 1-800-222-1222.

Most poisoning deaths are due to misuse and abuse of drugs, but poisoning exposures can involve a vast array of substances such as household cleaning products, personal care products, chemicals, bites and stings, pesticides, plants, gasses and batteries.  Poisonings happen every day in every age group.

The Nebraska Regional Poison Center will unite with the nation’s other 54 poison centers to celebrate the  57th Annual National Poison Prevention Week on March 17-23, 2019, a week dedicated to raising awareness about poisoning in the U.S. and highlighting ways to prevent it.

There are actions that we can all take to reduce Poisonings.  Here are just a few:

  • Save the Poison Center number in your phone as a contact: 1-800-222-1222
  • Be sure to read and follow medicine labels every time.
  • Never share your medicine with others or use someone else’s medicine.
  • Remember to always use the dosing device that comes with the medicine.
  • Take only one medicine at a time with the same active ingredient.
  • Store all medicines up and away and out of reach and sight of children.
  • Teach children to only take medicines with the permission and guidance from a parent or trusted adult.
  • Install and maintain carbon monoxide detectors in your home.
  • Be aware of where the disc batteries are in your home. They may be found in remote controls, key fobs, watches and toys. Keep batteries away from children!
  • Make sure all cleaning materials, including laundry packets, are stored in original containers and up and out of sight of children.
  • It is important to get rid of old and unused medicines as soon as you don’t need them anymore.  There are pharmacies that take back medications year round.  The Poison Center will help you locate the pharmacy nearest you.
  • Text “poison” to 797979 to save the contact information for poison control in your smartphone.

The Nebraska Regional Poison Center is a free community service to the public.

 When you call 1-800-222-1222, you will speak immediately to a

 Registered Nurse or Pharmacist 24/7/365.

Poison Prevention Tips

Poison Prevention Tips from the Nebraska Regional Poison Center

Poisonings are a leading cause of unintentional injury death in the U.S.  While the majority of poison-related exposures occur in children under 5 years of age, deaths among young children have decreased over the years in great part to poison centers’ accessibility to the public and their efforts to provide public education and sound the alarm on the dangers of household products and medications.  Currently, the majority of poisoning fatalities result from medication overdoses in adults.

Many poisonings are preventable and expert help is just a phone call away.  Poison control centers save lives and health care dollars.  The Nebraska Regional Poison Center is staffed by experienced, nationally-certified registered nurses and physicians who provide immediate assistance to health care providers and the public regarding the treatment of poisoning exposures 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  More than 75% of poisoning exposure cases are managed at home, greatly reducing the need for a costly emergency department visit.

Here are some poison prevention tips to protect yourself and your family:

  • Program the toll-free number for the poison center (1-800-222-1222) into your cell phone or text “poison” to 797979 to save the contact information for poison control.
  • Be sure to read and follow medicine labels every time. Never take larger or more frequent doses of your medications to try to get faster or more powerful effects.
  • Never share your medicine with others or use someone else’s medicine.
  • Remember to always use the dosing device that comes with the medicine container.
  • Check medications’ active ingredients, especially when taking more than one product, to avoid taking the same medication twice. For example, acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be found in a variety of fever reducers, pain medications, cold, and flu medications.  Taking acetaminophen too often or at too high of a dose can cause liver damage and other toxic effects.
  • Store all medicines out of reach and sight of children. Be aware that children are at risk when guests bring medications into your home.
  • Dispose of all unwanted and expired medications. The poison center can direct you to the nearest location to dispose of them.
  • Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas with no color, odor or taste. Nebraska has one of the highest CO fatality rates in the U.S.  A functioning CO detector should be located near all sleeping areas and on every level of your home.
  • Be aware of where the disc batteries are in your home. They may be found in remote controls, key fobs, watches and toys. These batteries have caused fatalities in children.
  • Laundry detergent packets (pods) are convenient, but also attractive to children and toxic when ingested or rubbed into eyes. Be sure all cleaning materials are stored in original containers and up and out of sight of children.
  • Never mix household products together. For example, mixing bleach with acid-containing cleaners or with ammonia can result in toxic gases.
  • Flavored refills for electronic cigarettes contain high concentrations of nicotine, which can be fatal to children if ingested.

  Call the poison center 1-800-222-1222 before you head to the emergency room for a poisoning. Your call is free and confidential. You will speak with a Registered Nurse or Pharmacist.  You will be given expert advice 24/7/365!  Your call is free and confidential.

Poison Prevention Tips


Be safe in the Season of Fall

Carbon Monoxide (CO): Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless dangerous gas. It can be produced by:

  • Burning charcoal indoors
  • Gas-fueled water heaters
  • Heating a home with a gas stove
  • Improperly functioning gas furnace
  • Vehicle exhaust
  • Wood stoves

CO can mimic other illnesses such as the stomach flu or food poisoning. Early symptoms are headache and feeling sick to your stomach and/or vomiting. Other symptoms can also include drowsiness and
dizziness. Always keep a CO detector in your home.

Antifreeze: Antifreeze is available as radiator antifreeze (often contains ethylene glycol) or windshield wiper solution (contains methanol). Both are highly toxic substances.

  • The colors and sweet taste may be attractive to young children.
  • Keep antifreeze products out of the reach of children.
  • Always keep antifreeze in its original container and stored in locked cabinets.

Halloween: The Nebraska Regional Poison Center wishes you a happy and safe Halloween. Listed below are Halloween tips for parents with youngsters.

  • Check treats thoroughly before allowing children to eat them.
  • Check wrappers for holes, tears and signs of rewrapping or tampering.
  • Throw away unwrapped candy or fruits if the source is unknown.
  • Be watchful of glow sticks and jewelry. If one breaks, avoid skin, mouth and eye contact.
  • If your children use make-up rather than a mask, watch out for possible skin irritation, such as a rash or itching. If this occurs, remove the make-up immediately and thoroughly cleanse the area with soap and water.
  • Dress children in light-colored clothing, short enough to prevent tripping and apply reflective tape for added safety.
  • Carry a flashlight after dusk and watch for cars. Try to finish before dark.
  • An adult should accompany young children and Halloween visits should be limited to familiar, local neighborhoods.
  • Make sure children can see well enough through facemasks to prevent falls.
  • Dry ice can be used in punch bowls but should not be used in individual glasses. Frostbite can occur if skin comes into contact with dry ice.

Call the Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 and talk immediately to a Registered Nurse or Pharmacist 24/7/365

Be safe in the Season of Fall

The Vaping Illness Outbreak: What We Know So Far

Updated on Sept. 27 at 7:06 p.m. ET to reflect the latest information from federal agencies

An outbreak of severe lung disease among users of electronic cigarettes continues to spread to new patients and states.

According to the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a total of 805 cases have been reported in 46 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The CDC has confirmed 12 deaths, in 10 states. The median age of patients was 23 and 69% were male, according to a report published Friday by the agency.

Public health officials are taking urgent steps to identify what is causing previously healthy vape users to develop pneumonia-like symptoms. But the results are still inconclusive.

In a press briefing on Friday, the CDC reported that the investigation is ongoing, and involves several federal agencies and state health departments.

“CDC recommends people consider refraining from using e-cigarette, or vaping, products, particularly those containing THC,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principal deputy director.

Here’s what we know so far about the outbreak.

What seems to be causing the illness?

“We do not know yet what exactly is making people sick,” said Schuchat. But the CDC is now reporting that “THC may play a role.” There is still no definitive link to any brand of device, ingredient, flavor or substance among all outbreak patients, but according to the CDC’s most recent statement, health officials are beginning to see “patterns emerge.”

The outbreak has affected users of both THC- and nicotine-containing products, but it is more prevalent among people using THC than people who report using only nicotine products. Among 514 patients for whom the CDC has information on substances used, nearly 77% report having vaped THC, 36% report using THC as well as nicotine, and 16% report vaping only nicotine.

According to a report published Friday on 86 cases in Wisconsin and Illinois, investigators found that of the THC-products used by patients, nearly all were prepacked, pre-filled cartridges acquired from informal sources like friends and illicit dealers.

In all confirmed cases, patients reported vaping within 90 days of developing symptoms, and most had vaped within a week of symptom onset. Patients with confirmed cases have been tested to rule out infections that could explain their symptoms. There is no indication that the outbreak is contagious.

What are the symptoms?

Patients report experiencing rapid onset of coughing, weight loss and significant breathing difficulties. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms generally appear over the course of a few days but can take as long as a few weeks to arise. The majority of patients are hospitalized, and while many of their symptoms overlap, their various diagnoses have included lipoid pneumonia (which can occur when oil enters the lungs), acute eosinophilic pneumonia (caused by the buildup of a type of white blood cell in the lungs) and acute respiratory distress syndrome.

What are public agencies doing to get to the bottom of this?

The CDC is working closely with affected states to understand the nature of the illness and the extent of its impact. The Food and Drug Administration issued a statement saying it is “deeply concerned about these incidents” and is working closely with the CDC to investigate the outbreak as quickly as possible. The FDA is analyzing a collection of over 120 product samples provided by state public health officials for the presence of a broad range of chemicals, including nicotine, THC and other cannabinoids, cutting agents, additives, pesticides, opioids, poisons, heavy metals and toxins.

“More information is needed to better understand whether there is a relationship between any specific products and any specific substances in those products and the reported illnesses,” Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, said in a press briefing in mid-September.

On Sept. 16, the CDC announced it activated its Emergency Operations Center to provide increased operational support for the response.

The FDA announced Sept. 19 it has enlisted the help of its office of criminal investigations, the law enforcement arm of the FDA. “We are in desperate need of facts,” Zeller said. He emphasized that the FDA is not looking to prosecute anyone for personal use of any of the substances linked to the vaping illnesses.

Is vitamin E involved?

Possibly. As NPR reported this month, vitamin E became a “key focus” of New York state health officials’ investigation after cannabis-containing vaping cartridges submitted by those who had fallen ill tested positive for vitamin E acetate. But of the e-cigarette products tested by the FDA to date, Zeller said “no one substance or compound, including vitamin E acetate, has been identified in all the samples tested.”

Nonetheless, the FDA said in a statement, “it is prudent to avoid inhaling this substance.” Vitamin E is a component of many topical consumer products and supplements.

How can a vape user stay safe?

The CDC recommends that people refrain from using e-cigarettes altogether while this investigation is ongoing and especially avoid products from unlicensed vendors. The FDA urges consumers to avoid using THC vaping products, regardless of whether the products were purchased on the street or in stores, owing to the possibility that the products may contain vitamin E acetate.

If people are unable to stop vaping, the CDC suggests they monitor themselves for symptoms and seek prompt medical attention if they experience cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or nausea and vomiting.

Are flavored vapes more likely to be dangerous, and is that why the FDA is planning to ban them?

The role of flavored vape products in the current outbreak is unknown at this time. Some lawmakers and public health advocates have been pushing for flavored vape products to be banned since flavors first entered the market, out of concern that they appeal to children. The timing of the recent move to ban flavored vape products may be linked to the current public concern about overall e-cigarette safety. Paul Billings, national senior vice president of advocacy at the American Lung Association, told NPR that “unfortunately it’s taken this crisis to finally prompt this action.”

Is this really new, or has it always been a risk of vaping?

Public health officials are working to confirm that this is a new phenomenon and not simply a case of raised awareness among medical providers and patients, but it’s too soon to know for sure. Jennifer Layden, chief medical officer of the Illinois Department of Public Health, told reporters, “I don’t think we can say if it’s a new or newly recognized phenomenon,” although according to preliminary findings, “it does appear to be an increase of cases.”