Mar 14th 2017 by Mythyx • 39 Questions • 44 Points
Hello Reddit! We are pharmacist, nurse and physician toxicologists and poison specialists at the National Capital Poison Center in Washington DC. It’s hard to imagine what people swallow, splash, or inhale by mistake, but collectively we’ve responded to more than million phone calls over the years about….you name it!
National Poison Prevention Week (March 19-25) is approaching. Take a few minutes to learn how to prevent and respond to a poison emergency. Be safe. AMA!
There are two ways to get free, confidential, expert help if a poisoning occurs:
1) Call 1-800-222-1222, or
You don’t have to memorize that contact info. Text “poison” to 484848 (don’t type the quotes) to save the contact info directly to your smart phone. Or download our vcard.
The National Capital Poison Center is a not-for-profit organization and accredited poison center. Free, expert guidance for poison emergencies – whether by telephone or online – is provided 24/7. Our services focus on the DC metro area, with a national scope for our National Battery Ingestion Hotline (202-625-3333), the webPOISONCONTROL online tool, and The Poison Post®. We are not a government agency. We depend on donations from the public.
Now for a bit of negative advertising: We hope you never need our service! So please keep your home poison safe.
Hey Redditors, thank you for all your amazing questions. We won't be taking any new questions, but will try to get to as many of the questions already asked that we can.
My sisters boyfriend works for homeland security at a border crossing and they wouldn't be allowed to answer these questions
What is the strangest thing that you are judged on?
Was there anything you experienced as a director that changed your outlook as an actor? Thanks Ewan!
What is the wildest / Funniest call you guys have gotten?
Have a Moderator do the Verification and do it from a throwaway?
You are judged in 3 categories: 1. Interview 2. Swimsuit 3. Evening Gown
The personal interview happens before prelims. I wouldn't say that any of the categories are particularly weird. The top 5 answer an on-stage question (not the same as interview score). The judges each individually put their choice from winner to 4th runner up after that.
A family called us after attending a funeral where the corpse spontaneously exploded. They were worried that they might explode too. Jess Benson, Pharm.D., DABAT
Where was the best place you've visited on bike during your trips with Charley?
Indeed. Not a common occurrence but according to my mortuary colleagues it has happened before. There are no risks of collateral explosions. ;-) Jess Benson, Pharm.D., DABAT
How many takes did it take for you to remaster that sadistic smile you have after you roll off the car?
I just wanted to thank you all. The other night my 4-yo daughter broke a glow-stick and it spurted in her eye. I have never heard her scream like that. And it went on and on...
We called you guys and got a very calm, cool woman on the phone who advised us to stop the saline wash we were trying, get her in the shower and force her eye open for 20 minutes. She told us what to look for and how to act and then called back 20 minutes later, as promised, to check on us.
What's your rule-of-thumb for sending people to the hospital vs. staying home and treating themselves?
You are welcome. Glad we could be of service to you. The decision to send someone to the emergency room instead of treating them at home is based on many different factors including what substance is involved, amount, how long ago the exposure occurred, age, weight, prior medical conditions, symptoms, time of day, distance from the hospital and whether they are responding to home treatments. In general if there is any chance that the person could develop serious injury or life-threatening symptoms they are referred to the emergency room. That being said, poison centers are able safely treat 67% of exposures at home. This is a good reason to call before you go. Many times you will not need to go to the emergency room for common poisoning exposures. Jess Benson, Pharm.D.
Have you ever had someone call in trying to inquire which home substance would make the best poison for criminal intentions?
"Personally, I believe that some kids don't have maps like such as the Iraq"
But seriously, I would have to say a general lack of compassion. Whether it be for people who look or think differently than us or for our own planet. If we continue to be so divided while simultaneously abusing our resources, can we even expect mankind to ultimately survive?
It wasn't hard. It seems like Renton's been sitting inside me for 20 years just waiting to come out again.
Yes. Tony Hillerman's son (Tony Hillerman is a famous mystery author) once called to run a few poisons by us. He was helping his dad at the time. I was also asked to give a talk to a group of aspiring authors about qualities of the perfect poison. If you are interested in this topic I recommend a book called "Criminal Poisoning: Investigational Guide for Law Enforcement, Toxicologists, Forensic Scientists, and Attorneys (2nd ed.)" by John Trestrail III. Jess Benson, Pharm.D.
Thanks for the AMA.
Was wondering what sort of exposure would be considered harmful to an average-sized person who happened to break a light bulb containing mercury. Also, what way could the substance enter into the body in that scenario that a person would need to be careful of?
I met with a coach for 2 hours each month and we worked on mostly walking and presentation. I was a lost cause before her. There is a ton that goes into it! I also worked out with a personal trainer 3-4 times a week as well as on my own. It was tricky because I did gain weight before I started preparing because I broke my foot.
People think the girls are mean and competitive. Every girl there wouldn't mind winning. Some are there because they just want the experience! Finals are on Sunday night and we all arrived Friday morning. You spend the whole weekend practicing with these girls (rehearsals until 10 pm) and only one girl wins. If you don't make friends, you'll be miserable.
One thing that surprised me was there was a girl competing who had cerebral palsy (she basically unanimously won Miss Amity aka: Miss congeniality). It was hard because she always went right before me and I wanted to cry watching her. It was such a powerful awesome thing for her to do.
I learned that you can't set your bar too low and sell yourself short. When I started I was tempted to say I was only trying to get into the top 20 so I could compete finals night. Well there's almost 200 girls who want in the top 20. And probably 40 who are there to WIN. Those 40 will make it a lot further than the girls selling themselves short. It takes a lot of confidence and drive.
Start preparing close to a year in advance. And this will sound cliche: but be yourself. If every girl says what she thinks the judges want to hear, every girl will sound exactly the same. Let them see what makes you you. If they find a connection with you they're more likely to root for you than if they think it's great that you want to empower children. Empowering children is part of the job description!
Yes I learned it while walking around Arthur's Seat. I think I'll always remember that speech.
This is a very common question, I'm so glad you asked! Generally speaking, breaking a CFL bulb will not pose much danger to a person. The most important thing is to clean it up and dispose of it properly. The amount of mercury is very very small - it would fit on the head of a pin (much less than what you find in a household thermometer). The mercury vaporizes and so the route of exposure is generally through inhalation. If you break a bulb, DON'T VACUUM it up (this just vaporizes the mercury into the air you are breathing). Call the Poison Center before you do anything else and we will give you step-by-step instructions about how to clean it up and how to minimize your exposure to the mercury. N. Reid, RN/BSN, DABAT
I'm not allowed to ride motorcycles while working for insurance reasons, but when I'm not working I ride every day.
Our recommendations are consistent with EPA recommendations. The reason they are so extensive is that out of an abundance of caution, they want to make sure people are not only handling CFL bulbs properly, but also other types of mercury-containing bulbs (large cylinders) properly. Mercury air contamination can be higher with exposures to the larger bulbs.
If I ever need to call you, how would you prefer that I order the information about the poisoned victim?
Well, not to brag, but when I was a kid I would be princess peach in super smash brothers and I would always win because I would just keep jumping up and floating down slowly while everyone else killed each other. That's about as far as my experience goes
Regarding the “order” of the information, the most important initial information to give Poison Control would be: the name/description/brand of the substance that the patient was exposed to (ex: Advil Cold and Sinus liquid, D-Con Bait Pellets, Fabuloso All-Purpose Cleaner, Crayola Markers, holly berries, dog poop, a white mushroom, a brown snake, Tylenol Extra Strength tablets, etc.), how much of the substance was taken (10 tablets, a sip, 2 mouthfuls, one leaf, two pieces, a small taste, etc.), when the exposure/ingestion occurred, how the patient is doing now, what has been done for them so far, and their age/weight.
RP, PharmD, MPH, Certified Specialist in Poison Information
If you weren't an actor, what job/industry would you have liked to have been in?
What is odorless, tasteless, dissolves instantly in liquid and is among one of the world's more deadly poisons?
Thank you (:
Iocane powder, of course. We have all spent the past few years building up an immunity to it. As you wish ;) P Soto, PharmD
What are some commonly overlooked areas in childproofing? Are there any items that parents don't realize are poisonous?
Not at Miss NY, but at another pageant I competed in a girl yelled "THIS IS RIGGED!" and stomped off stage when her name wasn't called.
Also, I grew up in Lancaster, PA and your username made me smile!
Always rehearse the scene with the actors alone, and then show the crew.
There are many. Button batteries are some of the most dangerous items that kids get into and they are found in so many products now -- remote controls, toys, hearing aids, key fobs and much more. These batteries can cause life-threatening injuries to the esophagus. Here's some more info: What can happen if a child swallows a button battery?
Also, rare earth magnets -- the really strong ones -- that you can find in kids' toys. If children swallow more than one, or a magnet with a metallic object, they can link up in the gut, trapping tissue between them causing the gut tissue to die.
Finally, I would caution parents and others involved in childcare to not rely too heavily on child resistant caps on medications. These caps are not "child-proof" (nothing is really). Even though they help to slow kids down, many children can open these caps at ages as young as 15 months! N Reid RN/BSN, DABAT
So there is a ton of safety information out there for new parents, can you give me some simple tips for not poisoning my kid?
It is actually very very rare!
Nein aber ich spreche sehr wenig deutsch
The brothers that I play in Fargo are not twins. The makeup is incredible.
Here's the condensed version.....what we tell everyone to help stay poison safe: 1. Up, up and away! Keep medications and poisonous household products out of your child’s sight and reach. Locked up is best. 2. Avoid container transfer. Some of the most devastating poisonings occur when toxic products are poured into food or beverage containers, then mistaken for food or drink. 3. Read the label and follow the directions. Misusing products has dire consequences. 4. Use child-resistant packaging. It’s not child-proof, but so much better than nothing. Sorry it’s inconvenient, but using it could save a life. 5. Keep button batteries away from children. Swallowed batteries can burn through your child’s esophagus and cause permanent injury or even death. 6. Keep laundry pods out of your child’s reach. They are as toxic as they are colorful and squishy.
Ewan, I absolutely ADORE your singing voice! Are you looking to do more musical films in the future? Heck, can we just get an album from you?
If one finds themselves without access to the internet, is there an easy way to remember what poisonous substances one should induce vomiting for and which ones they should not?
Nope. You are not allowed to communicate with any of the judges before the competition or you will get disqualified
I'd love to - I love singing in drama. Recording music is such a huge joy.
We no longer recommend inducing vomiting for anything. There are a couple reasons why -- 1) we actually found that inducing vomiting does not improve clinical outcomes in poisoned patients; 2) the common emetics people use can often cause more poisoning or injury than the original substance that the person swallowed. Some emetics can cause heart problems, ruptured esophagus, or seizures!
Who were your favorite actors as a child?
Yes, you just need to be non-exclusive or have your agency sign off on it
"Life Goes On", We'll Have "Nothin' But a Good Time"! By the way, if you inhale too much hairspray, call Poison Control. P Soto, PharmD
My friend once stuck a flashlight in his mouth and turned it on to see if it would shine out his eyes. While in his mouth the battery popped and burned the back of his mouth. About 3 or 4 months after (now), he still has the chemical burns in his mouth. Is that a cause for concern?
My favorite thing about myself is that I've overcome a lot. I think I've learned a lot through my negative experiences and surprisingly wouldn't ever want to change it.
My least favorite thing about myself is my procrastination issues!!!
Animal would be a dog. I like to see the good in everyone and try to be very positive! I also played a dog in my school musical in 6th grade. It was quite embarrassing at the time but makes a good story!
Yes, persistent, severe symptoms are definitely cause for concern. I would have your friend call his/her physician at this point. He/she needs a medical evaluation and treatment.
What are the most common household items people swallow, splash or inhale?
I have been on television before (sorry, not going to share the show!) but being asked was not related to my participation pageantry. It was a reality TV show and definitely not something i would do again.
There are no heroes or villains in my book. Bad guys don't think they're bad guys.
Bleach is definitely a common exposure that people often accidentally swallow, splash and inhale. Although it is not pleasant, it is typically well tolerated, in small amounts. Other than bleach, bathroom cleaners are also pretty common. P Soto, PharmD
I had the good fortune of doing one of my 4th year pharmacy rotations at a poison center (not NCPC), and found it one of the most rewarding experiences I've had. Thank you for the great work you guys do!
What is the most obscure/unlikely substance you've encountered in a poisoning case?
3 1/2 years into a very happy relationship (:
It's the 5th film I've made at home. I always love working in Scotland. I can visit my parents on the weekends.
It is wonderful to have pharmacy, nursing and medical students on rotation. We all learn from all the questions you ask us. I remember a case where a child came to the emergency room with irritability and progressive drowsiness. He eventually required intubation and mechanical ventilation. Pupils were dilated, dry skin ... the parents had given him a medicine for treatment of diarrhea. One tablet ...Lomotil. He was given naloxone and he stood up and extubated himself. Fortunately we don't see this type of exposure very much anymore. Jess Benson, Pharm.D., DABAT
Hi Ewan! Any chance of a third installment of Long Way Round/Down? Huge fan of that show and it'd be great to see you and Charlie back on the road again.
Do you think the new pod detergents are helping to prevent little kids from consuming detergent? Or are kids still trying to chow down on the packets?
What do kids mostly eat that causes problems? Is it detergents? Or something else?
Nope. He slid into my DMs on twitter.
It's a little too soon to tell if the new packaging for the pods is helping. Pods are extremely dangerous and they have caused serious injury. When a child puts a pod in his mouth and bites down, the pod pops open and the detergent is forced into the back of their throat. The liquid from the pod goes into the lung and causes injury - some children need to be on ventilators, or breathing machines. Also the irritating liquid can injure the eye as it splashes out of the mouth. Burns are also sometimes seen in the esophagus, again because of the extreme irritation. Regular liquid detergent, while irritating, does not normally cause serious injury in small amounts that children usually swallow.
Common ingestions include household products, such as cleaning products, personal care products like make-up and lotions, and plants. These items are responsible for about half of the calls about kids. The other half include medications, such as cold and cough products and prescription medicine.
Ingestion, or eating something is probably the most common, but people can be poisoned through the skin, by inhaling fumes, and eye injuries can occur from chemicals being splashed in the eye. Poisoning can occur from injecting drugs in the vein. The most common poisonings are due to medications found in the home.
Your learner motorcycle should be an un-powerful one like a 125cc. Your first proper bike should be a Triumph 650 or a Motoguzzi V7.
Hi. What a great question! Poison control centers collect data and submit these data in real-time to the National Poison Data System (NPDS). These data are used to look at poisoning trends over time and to see spikes in poisonings in near-real time ... opioids included. Right now the American Association of Poison Control Centers (the parent organization for poison centers in the US) collaborates with the FDA and CDC primarily. In addition poison centers collaborate with their health departments, emergency rooms, health systems and sometimes with the Office of Medical Examiner to provide additional data and to enhance mutual surveillance efforts. Realize that dead people don't call poison control and many emergency room physicians will not call a poison center about routine opioid overdose so these collaborations are really quite important if we are going to get a robust view of the opioid epidemic. In addition to surveillance many poison center are involved with drug take back effort and naloxone distribution efforts within their states. Suffice it to say, opioids have been a very important part of poison center activity over the past 10 years.
Jess Benson, Pharm.D.
Ewan, thank you for doing this AMA. I was watching Velvet Goldmine and really enjoyed your penis. How is it these days?
So I was on my bed last night getting tired and downs comes the biggest spider in my life a couple feet away from me. My first instinct is oh shit, then I try and look for my Guinness world records book to kill it as it's rappeling down. Long story short, I couldn't find the book and I just stared at it while it made its way down to the side of my bed, where I lost it and still can't find it. I found some Raid bug spray and sprayed it under my bed andon the sides of it. The window was wide open.
Question: How much Raid would be needed to end up in the ER or to be on the phone with you guys?
That is a common scenario. Folks get scared by something and in their panic they use a chemical to try to kill the insect (bees are common as well as spiders). You can certainly try to look it up on webPOISONCONTROL, but if you don't feel comfortable please call us and we'll help you sort it out. You don't have to think you are seriously poisoned to make the phone call. And some people are surprised that many accidental exposures often don't cause serious injury. Sometimes when you are in panic mode it's best to talk to a specialist at poison control, because we are great at calming our callers down.
When was the last time you watched the original Trainspotting? Has your view of it changed at all over the past 21 years?
Do I really need to call poison control if my kid swallows toothpaste? Why can't we come up with a toothpaste that is edible?
Absolutely, it's always prudent to call Poison Control if your child swallows toothpaste (or anything else that he/she wasn't supposed to), but in general small amounts of fluoride-containing toothpastes (ex: less than a mouthful) in children are typically well tolerated. In these cases we usually only see some mild stomach upset or an episode of vomiting. Obviously, larger amounts of toothpaste ingested (especially Rx strength) can be problematic in children. However, there are toothpastes out there that are “safer to swallow”, that do not contain fluoride. They typically contain sorbitol, which may only cause some loose stools.
RP, PharmD, MPH, CSPI
Hi Ewan.did you ever meet iggy pop.and if so is he as crazy as he seems?
How is your budget looking for the next fiscal year?
Don't know whether it's good or bad that we aren't a government agency, but we are not. We're a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Sadly, the National Capital Poison Center is projecting a budget deficit of $2.2 million - of a total cost of just over $5 million/year. About half of our funding is from state government grants. The rest is philanthropy.
Hi Ewan! You're one of my favorite actors, and I'm so excited to see you in the new season of Fargo. My question is this: what's your favorite book and why?
How can we donate?
A favorite book of mine is called Jupiter's Travels by Ted Simon that inspired me to do the long motorcycle trips that I've done.
You can donate here. Thank you!
Do you ever miss Scotland and what was t like growing up there and also what is your favorite kind of motorcycle to ride?
I often miss Scotland - it was a wonderful place to grow up. I had a very rural countryside childhood and enjoyed independence from a very young age.
Mr. Yuk, with his green scowly face, was first introduced in 1971 by the Pittsburgh Poison Center and was used in parts of the US. There was some concern that the application of Yuk stickers to products attracted children to the products. In about 2002 there was a move to a single phone number for all 55 U.S. poison centers (1-800-222-1222) and with it a national logo was introduced - Poison Help.
Hi Mr. McGregor! HUGE FAN!!!! Can I ask, what is the best thing a director can do for you on set? Thanks :~)
Times have changed! Poison Help commercial has replaced that one!
Was it hard to get back in character for T2? By the way loved it!!!
That commercial is like on a completely different spectrum from the Mr yuck commercials.
There are even a few different versions, both in English and Spanish, and sheet music too!
How was it working with Van and the rest of the lads from Catfish and the Bottlemen? Loved that video!
Besides calling, is there a way people can text or chat poison control?
We had a great day in New York. I took them to my favorite punk store, Trash and Vaudeville and we had a laugh.
There are 55 poison centers covering the U.S., each with a designated service area. Some have chat capabilities, but most don't - yet. Throughout the U.S. (or internationally), if you prefer to get your poison help online, you can use the webPOISONCONTROL tool. There you enter age, substance, and amount swallowed and get case-specific automated recommendations, including a determination of whether it's safe to stay home, you need to go to the ER, or you need to call Poison Control. In most cases (73%), it's OK to stay home. We never discourage calls, but if that's not the way you like to get help, feel free to go online. Toby Litovitz, MD
Any thoughts on doing a Trainspotting 3? Loved the second one so I would love to see the characters again.
Do you agree with the Bell Biv DeVoe assertion about that girl?
Yes, that girl is poison. P Soto, PharmD
Follow up: is there any way to mitigate or, I guess, stop a poison from affecting you if there's no known antidote or cure (something that's 100% fatal)?
You can always call Poison Control, but if you are exposed to a very serious substance, you can call 911 and the ambulance will take you to a hospital Emergency Department where expert care will be given. Many poisonous substances don't have an antidote anyway. Patients survive serious poisonings with excellent treatment of symptoms present.
What was the jump like from directing a short to directing a full film?
I recently had an experience where someone had ingested kerosene from an unmarked container in the garage, it was mistaken for water. When I called the poison control line, they didn't offer any advice, only asked me questions like, "How do you know that it wasn't windshield wiper fluid?" (It smelled like kerosene and wasn't blue). It also seemed like they were stalling for time. I ended up hanging up and looking up information online instead (don't induce vomiting!).
Was this just an inexperienced operator? Does the phone number get traced in case of an emergency that requires authorities?
It was a very long jump, I shot my short in 1996 and my feature film in 2015.
I'm sorry that you had an unsatisfactory experience calling Poison Control. I can't really speak to what the specific specialist might have been thinking or what their level of experience might be. In general, Specialists in Poison Information are registered nurses with at least 2 years of experience in the hospital, or pharmacists with a clinical background. Once you are hired by a poison center, you have to train for at least a year, and pass a national exam to become a Certified Specialist in Poison Information.
Our Poison Center utilizes a system similar to 911 to obtain phone numbers and location and we do confirm this information with the caller at the beginning of the call in case the connection drops or the patient becomes incapacitated while on the phone with us. The Poison Centers do have the capability to mobilize EMS to the patient's location if necessary.
And just to be clear, all of this personal information is kept strictly confidential by the Poison Center. N. Reid RN/BSN, DABAT
do you have any plans for working with Kevin Mckidd again? would love to see you guys together in a play !
What made you want to get into the medical profession?
I would love that too. Kevin is a brilliant actor and he was missed on the set of T2.
Most of us were drawn to the medical profession because we had an interest in helping people. I worked at a suicide prevention telephone service while in pharmacy school. Most of the calls were about possible poisonings. During my clinical rotations I saw many poisonings in the emergency room and admitted to the ICU. It seemed like I was drawn to clinical toxicology. Over the years I have seen many changes in poison control. One thing that has remained the same is the poison centers' ability to help people quickly and compassionately. Jess Benson
what are the most common questions you guys get?
Over half of Poison Control calls are regarding children under 6 years old, with a peak in the 2-3 year old age group. Children this age tend to get into things of convenience - household medications, and cleaners are common. It's amazing how quickly children can get into things. Also, visitors who may have loose pills in their purses or pockets, or pill minders are often accessed and can be a danger. P Soto, PharmD
Hi Ewan, what was for you the most moving scene to shoot in T2?
What was the hardest part of putting the app together and how do you keep track of the "logic" for all the different possible scenarios?
If you ask the toxicologists (as opposed to the software developers), we'd say the hardest part is developing the algorithms, product database and logic. Each of the 1325+ ingredient algorithms is matched to the corresponding ingredients in 49,000 products - so we have to be able to handle products with multiple ingredients, too. Each algorithm has age- or weight-based thresholds for the ingredient, a list of expected minor symptoms which may develop, a list of symptoms that require further medical evaluation, specific home treatment where appropriate, the expected onset and duration of symptoms and a risk window beyond which significant toxicity is unlikely if symptoms have not already developed. Since algorithms are also used in traditional poison centers, they also outline the justification for the threshold and provide references.
On the other hand, the developers might tell you that the greatest challenge was the overall scope and complexity of the code and the many little nuances required to accommodate variations. Specific logic is incorporated in the software to handle each formulation type, multi-ingredient products, unknown amounts, unknown weight, and the minimum possible weight for age.
It may be difficult to imagine the complexity of the engine driving this app. There are more than 50 administrative interfaces that enable tracking, linking and manipulation of products, images, barcodes (yes, you can scan the barcode of the product your kid swallowed to enter the product name), algorithms, and case data. It also includes tools for quality assurance and data analysis.
Toby Litovitz, MD
How do you account for new products that enter the market place? Do they need to disclose the ingredients to you before being allowed to be on a shelf?
Companies introducing new products are not required to disclose their ingredients. Many do voluntarily, which is a big help. But many companies are also fearful their proprietary blend of ingredients will be stolen. In these cases previous experience of the specialist at the poison center can be very helpful in determining likely ingredients and possible concerns.
Hi NCPC! I read a book on poison response and the vast majority of treatments seem to be ingesting medical grade activated charcoal. In a pinch, if I cut open a water filter filled with activated charcoal and took the same amount, could it be used as a somewhat effective treatment? (This is not an endorsement for people eating Brita filter charcoal instead of going to the hospital, just in a case where you're in the wilderness a few hundred miles away from civilization and just so happen to have a Brita)
Hi! Yes, that is true. People are often worried about getting their stomachs "pumped", but that isn't done very often at all anymore. Activated charcoal is still a method of decontamination that we recommend when an ingestion is recent. You're right - we don't recommend doing home treatments of activated charcoal, because if it is serious enough to require activated charcoal, we will likely want you to go into the ER. Unfortunately, the activated charcoal sold over the counter, and in water filters are probably not as "activated" as the ones available in the emergency room. Also, there are some things that charcoal cannot absorb. Some people get nauseated and vomit after drinking charcoal, which can make some situations much worse (aspiration). Overall, I would not recommend using it. P Soto, PharmD.
What are some common poisons that often get overlooked as safe?
In children we worry about imidazoline-containing nasal sprays (contain oxymetazoline or tetrahydrozoline). Most people will not think of them as poisonous because they are over-the-counter and generally viewed as safe. Unfortunately, small amounts can produce loss of consciousness, slowed heart rate and loss of breathing. Button batteries are another example. See our reply at https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/5zrfrq/we_are_the_national_capital_poison_center_ready/df0etyz/ We also worry about laundry pods. Jess Benson, Pharm.D., DABAT
Tell the truth: What do you really think of parents that have to call multiple times a year for the same child that seems to have taste tested half the house?
I think children explore their environments with their mouths. This is totally normal behavior. They are quick and curious and parents are often just one step behind them when things go in the mouth. We don't judge, we want people to call -- even if it is something that seems silly. Call to be sure, don't guess. And if you are too embarrassed to call, use the webPOISONCONTROL app or online tool. N. Reid, RN/BSN, DABAT
Has working in the center/becoming a poisons expert changed any of your habits?
I make sure none of my family or friends ever transfer cleaning products or chemicals in to water/drink bottles. This terrible habit became my pet peeve when someone thought it would be a great idea to put windshield washer fluid in a water bottle. A thirsty worker came into the trailer and drank several gulps and didn't think much about the bad taste because he was busy and had to get back to work. That night he ended up in the intensive care unit in kidney failure. PLEASE stop using water bottles as containers for fluids that are NOT water!
Is alcohol poisoning within your purview? Secondly, if so, what kind of data do you have about alcohol poisoning (and is it made available to the public)?
Yes. You can call or use the webPOISONCONTROL site anytime about possible alcohol poisoning. The previous year's national poisoning experience is published yearly in a medical journal called Clinical Toxicology (http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15563650.2016.1245421). This report contains statistics for all kinds of poisoning including ethanol (alcohol) poisoning. The report will under-represent the true number of people who suffer from alcohol poisoning because many people will not call their poison center when it happens. It will give you a rough idea however of how frequent these exposures are. For instance in 2015, there were 6761 calls to all U.S. poison control centers regarding possible ethanol beverage exposures. Jess Benson, Pharm.D., DABAT
I called because my cat had eaten something, but I pretended that it was my child. Did you know that I was actually calling about my cat?
So we want to stress that it’s always important to be upfront when calling Poison Center since our pets (dogs, cats, etc.) have different metabolisms than humans, and some things that are completely safe for humans can be very toxic to dogs and cats. For example, certain foods that humans can safely enjoy such as: grapes, raisins, onions, shallots, garlic, coffee, and even chocolate can be toxic even in small amounts to our pets!
RP, PharmD, MPH, Certified Specialist in Poison Information