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Home Sweet Home…or Not?

Posted: April 24th, 2018 | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

It takes a lot of work to maintain the health and safety of our homes, especially when we have small children to care for. But despite everything we do to keep our homes in good shape, it’s not always the cleaners and chemicals we have to watch out for: houses can pose their own types of toxic threats. Read more »

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You won’t believe…A Day in the Life of a Poison Center!

Posted: March 19th, 2018 | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Your emergency department patient ingested an unknown amount of an unidentified over-the-counter analgesic. Your toddler took a bite out of your deodorant stick. You accidentally took your mother’s heart medication instead of your allergy medicine. Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters! Oops, wrong blog. Let’s try that again. Who you gonna call? The Illinois Poison Center (free, confidential, 24/7/365 helpline service):  1-800-222-1222!

Our highly trained staff field calls just like these 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All of these healthcare professionals (physicians, pharmacists, nurses), have specialized training in toxicology so they are ready to offer the respect, concern and experience Illinoisans need, whether they’ve come into contact with potentially harmful substances or just want to know more about health and safety.

In honor of National Poison Prevention Week, take a peek into our staff’s daily lives with hour-by-hour summaries of actual calls made to the IPC. Although these calls are from 2015, they continue to represent the range of issues we encounter on a typical day and the concerns of the nearly 80,000 people who call the IPC for help every year:

Read more »

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Done over by the flu? Don’t overdo it with acetaminophen!

Posted: January 30th, 2018 | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

While the flu always has the potential to be deadly, you may not know about a hidden danger lurking in your medicine cabinet, especially during cold and flu season: acetaminophen (Tylenol).

Acetaminophen is a common drug for treating flu symptoms, like fever and chills, muscle and body aches, headaches, and sore throats. Acetaminophen, however, can’t do it all; in order to treat a cough or runny nose, someone experiencing flu symptoms usually turns to additional over-the-counter products for relief. And here’s where trouble can arise: multi-symptom cold symptom relief products often also contain acetaminophen. Read more »

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Got Cold or Cough with Congestion? … Get Cautious with Camphor

Posted: December 6th, 2017 | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

It’s that time of the year again, and along with the cold weather, nasty colds, hacking coughs and stuffy noses have arrived. Time to break out the over-the-counter decongestants and other treatments that make you feel better.

Many families use mint-scented products like Vapo Rub, that are massaged on the skin or inhaled, to give a comforting, warm, soothing sensation.  Even though they don’t shorten the course of the illness, they may provide temporary relief from cough and cold symptoms.  Mike, our medical director, recalls being lathered up with the stuff like a greased pig when he was a kid. Read more »

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Lose Harmful Bacteria—Not Your Appetite—This Holiday Season

Posted: November 15th, 2017 | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

‘Tis the season for family, friends, fun, and . . . food poisoning (ewww). For some unfortunate merrymakers, holiday feasts will start in the dining room and end in the bathroom. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that every year, more than 76 million people fall victim to a foodborne illness.

For those of us who are designated holiday chefs, meal preparation can be tricky; many of us are preparing dishes we don’t usually cook and for large numbers of people. And it doesn’t help that at many celebrations, different types of foods may be left out for extended periods of time or not stored properly. This can allow harmful bacteria to grow.

Read more »

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Halloween: Scary for Kids, Even Scarier for Pets

Posted: October 26th, 2017 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Halloween is a real treat for humans, but not so much for our pets. Did you know that chocolate is toxic to all mammals, but only dogs will eat a potentially fatal amount? The darker the chocolate, the worse it is for a dog, since milk chocolate and white chocolate are diluted with other ingredients. Read more »

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A bug has been swallowed…

Posted: September 26th, 2017 | Tags: , , | No Comments »

We get some crazy calls here at the IPC, including some that are a little gross—such as when someone has eaten a BUG.   Although we are technically a few days into fall, the weather here in Illinois has been decidedly summery. So why not cap off a week of 90-degree days with a list of the most common type of bugs swallowed by people in Illinois? Read more »

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Water-Related Illness: Chemicals and Germs in the Pool

Posted: August 21st, 2017 | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

With Labor Day quickly approaching, many families will enjoy one last poolside outing before summer ends. Unfortunately for nervous swimmers, while the iconic music from the 1975 film Jaws can be unnerving, giant human-eating sharks aren’t the only things to worry about when heading out for a dip.

In the past couple of years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have identified two public health and safety concerns with swimming pools: Read more »

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The Top 10 Totally Toxic Mistakes

Posted: July 31st, 2017 | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

OMG! Uh oh. Geez! Duh. Shoot! Yep, we’ve heard these exclamations time and time again. We all strive to do what’s best for our families by keeping our children safe and our homes clean. However, once in a while, some of the methods we use to achieve these goals totally backfire and can have minor—or even severe—consequences. Here are the top 10 most common toxic mistakes:

  1. Applying products or chemicals that aren’t meant for the body.  One woman called because she had reached into her bathroom cabinet in the dark for a tube of personal lubricant and accidentally grabbed toothpaste instead. Similarly, a recent caller purchased some “all natural” household cleaner and assumed that since all the ingredients were all natural, it would be safe to use to disinfect her hands. However, the product’s ingredients, while natural, were caustic and caused chemical burns.

Read more »

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Top 5 most interesting Illinois Summer Mushrooms

Posted: June 27th, 2017 | 1 Comment »

Mushrooms, fungi, toadstools—no matter what you call them, you have probably seen them growing in your yard and likely have eaten them in a pizza or stir fry.  Over 5 million species of fungus exist in the world. They come in many different colors, shapes, and sizes—not to mention smells—and range from edible delicacy to deadly poisonous.  Here are our top 5 most interesting mushrooms that you may see growing in Illinois this summer:

Read more »

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Children’s Mental Health: Suicidal overdose cases in children and teens increase 92% in 10 years

Posted: May 4th, 2017 | 1 Comment »

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and May 4th is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day.  This month’s blog provides highlights the worsening mental health crisis among teens nationally and in Illinois. Read more »

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Changing attitudes on marijuana: A pictorial journey from the 1600’s to today

Posted: April 13th, 2017 | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Hemp, used to make sails, clothing and rope, was a staple agricultural product in America from the 1600s to the early 1900s. Marijuana or cannabis (e.g. flowers and leaves of female hemp plant) is a by-product of hemp production.

hemp farmHemp sailshemp-in-kentucky





(Image Source: Kentucky Hemp Farmers Assoc and Popular Mechanics 1938) Read more »

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The Top 3 Sexiest Antidotes

Posted: February 28th, 2017 | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

syringeAntidotes are arguably the most intriguing drugs out there: Someone is severely poisoned and all it takes is one dose of one drug that is the perfect opposite of the poison to cure them.  The truth is, there are a limited number of antidotes in existence—not every poison has one.  A few are pretty fascinating, and here are my 3 favorites: Read more »

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A Holiday Cocktail to Avoid – Alcohol and Prescription Medications

Posted: December 8th, 2016 | No Comments »

‘Tis the season to be jolly—but mixing alcohol and certain prescription medications is no laughing matter. The holiday season brings an abundance of parties with family and friends and very often a few glasses of liquid cheer. With higher alcohol consumption rates during the holiday season and an increasing number of people using multiple prescription medications, there are potentially dangerous consequences to combining some medications with alcohol.drink-warning

In general, mixing alcohol with certain medicines can cause nausea, vomiting, headaches, drowsiness, fainting, loss of coordination, internal bleeding or breathing difficulties. Read more »

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Spend the Holidays with Family and Friends, Not the Bathroom

Posted: November 22nd, 2016 | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

As the holidays approach, families and friends across Illinois will make plans to celebrate the season together with a delicious meal. However, a helping of salmonella or staph at the Thanksgiving table can ruin a holiday feast faster than dry turkey or lumpy mashed potatoes. Read more »

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Halloween: Hocus Pocus vs. Potential Horrors

Posted: October 25th, 2016 | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Let’s start with the scarrrrrryyyyyy stuff…poisoned candy.

Read more »

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What I Learned about Laundry Pods at the North American Congress of Clinical Toxicology

Posted: September 23rd, 2016 | No Comments »

Every year, the largest toxicology conference of the world–the North American Congress of Clinical Toxicology–brings together toxicologists from around the globe to learn from each other and present research that impacts all of us. At this year’s conference, three fascinating abstracts on laundry pods.  If not interested in the study details, scroll down to “My take home points from these three abstracts” at the bottom of the blog. Read more »

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Loperamide (Imodium) abuse: An internet/street pharmacist’s dream or nightmare?

Posted: July 18th, 2016 | No Comments »

In May, a paper published in Annals of Emergency Medicine highlighted two deaths from loperamide abuse. Loperamide is the active ingredient in Imodium, a common and readily available anti-diarrheal medication. How available? A 400-pill bottle at Costco can be purchased for $7.59. Read more »

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Don’t let your toddler smoke this…

Posted: June 22nd, 2016 | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

E-cigarettes: you are probably familiar with these battery powered contraptions that heat liquid nicotine (among other things) into vapor, which is then inhaled. E-cigarettes have become a multi-billion dollar industry in the past 9 years—unfortunately these products can be very dangerous to children.  As of 2014, 12.6% of US adults have used e-cigarettes at least once, which means they are in a lot of homes. Read more »

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IPC and EMS – Partners for LIFE

Posted: May 19th, 2016 | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

EMS, Emergency Medical Service, is much more than a ride to the hospital. It is a system of coordinated response and emergency medical care, involving multiple people and agencies. It is activated by a call for help, usually by a call to 911, after an incident of serious illness or injury.

The Illinois Poison Center (IPC) is proud to be an active partner with EMS for toxicology related cases, when necessary, 24/7/365!  No matter the severity of the case, the EMS/IPC team work together to guarantee the highest quality and speed of care.  Sometimes the case is extremely serious and the timing of care is a matter of life or death:

Saturday, 7:00pm – A paramedic called the IPC while en route to an ER (via ambulance):

Read more »

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Top 5 things IPC specialists want you to know before you call

Posted: April 19th, 2016 | Tags: , , | No Comments »
  1. IPC specialists are healthcare professionals specially trained in toxicology.

The person who will answer your call is a physician, pharmacist, nurse or other healthcare provider who, on average, has over 15 years of experience at the IPC.  Collectively, our current staff has handled over 1.2 million cases regarding an exposure to a potentially harmful substance. Yes you are calling a 1-800 number for free, but the person on the other end is NOT an operator or a volunteer.  You can be sure that the person you talk to is an expert and will give you accurate information quickly.

Read more »

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National Poison Prevention Week: Much to celebrate and still much work to do

Posted: March 22nd, 2016 | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

The 3rd week in March has been designated as National Poison Prevention Week (NPPW) by each and every President since John F. Kennedy started the tradition in 1962.  The Illinois Poison Center is a strong advocate of poison prevention and has worked with the Governor, Legislature and City of Chicago to have the entire month of March declared Illinois Poison Prevention Month (IPPM).

I know, it seems like overkill, but the trends and outcomes of lowering pediatric poisoning in Illinois is worthy of the effort. Read more »

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NOT a toy

Posted: February 16th, 2016 | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Child-resistant caps are an important safety feature on the bottles of medications or other household substances (e.g. toilet bowl cleaner). The IPC recommends that they are used on all bottles in homes with children because they can reduce the incidence of poisoning.  What is critically important to remember, though, is that these caps are child-resistant, not child-proof.  Check out these two real cases that were reported to the IPC in just a 1 month period: Read more »

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The dangerous item that might be lurking in your new toys

Posted: January 20th, 2016 | Tags: , | No Comments »

Kids and adults alike received many toys over the recent holiday season.  Many of these toys have something in common—they are powered by button batteries. Button cell or disc batteries are coin shaped batteries used in electronic items such as toys, remote controls, hearing aids, musical greeting cards, calculators, and other small devices. Read more »

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The Ebb and Flow of Synthetic Cannabinoids in Illinois

Posted: November 25th, 2015 | No Comments »

The first time a large outbreak of people sickened by synthetic cannabinoids occurred was in March of 2010, when several dozen people presented to emergency departments in Missouri.  Despite Illinois’ close proximity to MO, for the rest of that year, there were only 4 cases reported to the Illinois Poison Center, mostly in the Southern portion of the state.  I personally thought that it was a blip and this drug would miss Illinois as we tend to be below the national average in respects to drug abuse.

I was wrong.  Really wrong. Read more »

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