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Pick your poison..
April 10, 2010 2:47 AM   Subscribe

A 34 year old man took some pills from his roommate, thinking they were Valium®. Turns out they were diabetes medication; the patient is now comatose and having seizures because his blood sugar is so low. A grandparent called because she gave her grandson his heart medication approximately 90 minutes too soon. He is supposed to get it every 12 hours.A caller ate a sandwich with lunchmeat and only after eating it, realized the meat expired 7 months ago.A mom called because she accidentally gave her 2 year old 5ml of liquid methadone, having mistaken it for ibuprofen suspension.
All this in a day in the life of the Illinois Poison Center

To draw attention to the good work they do at the IPC, They decided to blog a short summary of the calls they received over a 24-hour period.
The results range from the banal, to the heartwarming,to the reckless,cluessless, or just plain luck-less every day adventures of our medicated society.
Their blog, is also worthy of a read, though you will no doubt notice they are on a funding drive at the moment, there are some good articles in there.

Found via Wired's Geekdad, IIRC.
posted by Dillonlikescookies (166 comments total) 103 users marked this as a favorite

 
Caller has one squirt bottle with bleach/water to disinfect her kitchen, and another with just water that she uses to spray the dog. She was going to spray the dog, but had mixed up the two bottles. She wanted to make sure she didn’t spray her dog with bleach, so she had squirted some in her mouth to check. It was the bleach.

Priceless.
posted by biochemist at 3:16 AM on April 10, 2010 [31 favorites]


You've got to be nimble if you're a poison control hotline operator:

A 68 year old man accidentally used capsaicin cream instead of hemorrhoid cream.

An adult woman called because a battery leaked out of her personal massager and she was concerned about battery acid burns.

posted by gabrielsamoza at 3:28 AM on April 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


Just reading the FPP got my heart rate going a little, then I dug in a little and it was like watching an excellent stand-up comedian while he's shooting at you. Schadenfreude in blog form.
posted by Clamwacker at 4:13 AM on April 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


I read through all of them, and while most of them made me glad I don't have children, this one made me rage:
Babysitter misread the label of child’s nighttime prescription for clonidine [hypertension, ADHD, among others] and instead of giving him ½ tablet, gave him 12 tablets.
posted by june made him a gemini at 4:20 AM on April 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


I am surprised that one or two pills of a diabetes medication could send an otherwise healthy person into a hypoglycemic coma. Is there any more specific info on this? I couldn't find any.
posted by chinston at 4:37 AM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


she reached for her eye drops...Unfortunately, she had instead grabbed a tube of super glue...

ouch!
posted by sundri at 4:45 AM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


reads like the best of askme.
posted by msconduct at 4:47 AM on April 10, 2010 [35 favorites]


A caller ate a sandwich with lunchmeat and only after eating it, realized the meat expired 7 months ago

This is on AskMe every other month.
posted by availablelight at 4:52 AM on April 10, 2010 [20 favorites]


Morals of this blog:
1. Children will eat anything without knowing or checking what it is.
2. Adults will eat almost anything without knowing or checking what it is.
3. Do not put anything in food containers that is not food.
4. Read prescription labels very carefully, especially if it is not your prescription.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:57 AM on April 10, 2010 [17 favorites]


Okay, some of these are really alarming (superglue in the eye or an entire bottle of acetaminophen--Jesus), but some of them put me in mind of the old Bloom County strip in which Opus called 911 because he'd eaten a green banana. They hung up on him after he described his only symptom as his tongue feeling "kinda starchy".
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:00 AM on April 10, 2010 [8 favorites]


A father called about tater tots he had cooked in the oven; after his kids ate them, the caller realized there was a charred rat corpse in the oven.

Probably not poison. But definitely aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh.
posted by pinky at 5:01 AM on April 10, 2010 [10 favorites]



Just remember:

A. At seventeen these same people are issued a driver license and share the road with YOU.

B. At eighteen they they have a vote that is exactly EQUAL in weight to yours.

Just a couple of thoughts to ponder the next time you get behind the wheel or studiously research a political candidates voting record.
posted by notreally at 5:14 AM on April 10, 2010 [18 favorites]


I luvs theys.
posted by notreally at 5:14 AM on April 10, 2010


The super glue/eye drops confusion has been going on since at least the early 90's and it seems like there's a simple solution: don't keep your super glue in the medicine cabinet and don't store your eye drops in the junk drawer with the elastics and packing tape.

Seriously, how does this happen so often?
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:15 AM on April 10, 2010 [19 favorites]


Even your plate of beans can be poisonous.
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:20 AM on April 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


A toddler ingested an entire bottle of homeopathic teething tablets.

I'm thinking they have nothing to worry about.
posted by knave at 5:23 AM on April 10, 2010 [81 favorites]


A 35 year old man spilled a gallon of paint thinner in his lap. He is experiencing extreme pain and some skin peeling in his groin area.

You know, I don't think I've admitted it to anyone, but it was in large part AskMetafilter that actually converted me to the cause of single-payer health care. I had been of a more free-market opinion, and had even had a class in law school on the topic. But day after day, I would open the page and find myself reading something like the question of this poor sumbitch above. And the response, in my head, would be "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD GO TO A DOC -- oh, you don't have insur -- oh."

I don't doubt it's the same story with that guy, who wanted to know if Vaseline would help instead, or something. Maybe Poison Control Centers should do this report as a matter of course.

A toddler ingested an entire bottle of homeopathic teething tablets.

Possibly this would lead to an important revelation on the part of a well-meaning parent, before they try to treat any other ailments that way. Or, you know, not.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:59 AM on April 10, 2010 [30 favorites]


Even though I know there's no way to do it, I wish there was some sort of followup on some of these calls.
posted by Lucinda at 6:04 AM on April 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


I used to work at Poison Control in New Zealand. Good to see that the calls are the same around the world.

My most memorable call was from the bride-to-be calling in the early morning hours of her wedding. Her fiance's "friends" had superglued his butt cheeks together at the bachelor party. There were two pressing issues. One, he needed to poop. Two, they had already tried a number of solvents (not, unfortunately, a long hot bath and lots of soap which would have been my first recommendation) and now his skin was irritated and peeling. Yeah, around his scrotum too.

Always wondered how that honeymoon went.
posted by gaspode at 6:13 AM on April 10, 2010 [44 favorites]


I want to see this as a reality show on TLC: "What Not To Ingest."
posted by drlith at 6:14 AM on April 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


Challenging calls were the people who were calling claiming to have ingested X number of Y substance and asking if it was dangerous. You got a sixth sense for when they were contemplating a suicide attempt and trying to calibrate the dose.
posted by gaspode at 6:15 AM on April 10, 2010 [18 favorites]


When I was 5 years old my dad put his beer bottle down for a moment (the famous old-school Canadian stubby!) and by the time he got back it was empty, because I'd gotten into it.

I'm pretty sure he didn't call the Poison Centre, though.
posted by bwg at 6:18 AM on April 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


I was at home with my two year who is sitting in the front room watching Elmo. I go to the bathroom and when I came back, a bottle of clear nail polish is open and his breath smells like nail polish. I freak out and call the local poison control and they have me read the bottle ingredients to them and it turns out that whatever that brand was, it was completely harmless. I was so glad I had their help and we still don't know how his pudgy little fingers got that bottle open.
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 6:42 AM on April 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Caller took a beer out of the minbar in a hotel and quickly realized after one swig that it was urine. Someone had drunk the beer, then filled it with urine and put it back to avoid being charged.

ahhh!
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 6:44 AM on April 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


And that's why screw top bottles are evil, aside from the fact that they're also a pain to recap for homebrew.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:47 AM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just remember:

A. At seventeen these same people are issued a driver license and share the road with YOU.

B. At eighteen they they have a vote that is exactly EQUAL in weight to yours.

Just a couple of thoughts to ponder the next time you get behind the wheel or studiously research a political candidates voting record.
posted by notreally at 8:14 AM on April 10 [1 favorite +] [!]


It's not really (heh) that sort of thing I worry about, it is more this (from the midnight to 7:00 am section):


A hospital called because one of their nurses had inadvertently given a patient 100 units of insulin instead of 10 units of insulin.

As I mentioned on MeFi once before, I once stood in line in a grocery store behind two twentyish university students being served by a twentyish cashier. Their purchases came to $13.44 and they wanted to pay half each. Not one of the three people before me was able to work out what half of $13.44 is. Two post-secondary students and someone who works with numbers all day every day were all unable to divide a number by two. It took me about a second and a quarter to work out the answer, but as I was in no hurry and there was no one behind me, I wanted to see how this played out. After futile scribblings and canvassing nearby registers for a calculator, they had to summon the store manager who looked at them all incredulously and supplied the answer on the spot.

My immediate reaction was the sad knowledge that when I am a senior citizen in a hospital bed, these people twenty years my junior will be the ones measuring out my dosages.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:49 AM on April 10, 2010 [47 favorites]


The results range from the banal,

An adult female called after she accidentally took 2 of her melatonin tablets.


I'm a bit absent-minded. Occasionally I forget if I've taken my synthroid, or if I have taken my vitamin D, or at what time I last popped some advil. It would never occur to me to call a poison hotline if I realized I took 2 tablets of anything, much less an OTC supplement. Maybe I'm a bit cavalier, but it strikes me that some people are overly concerned, "Oh Noes! I took 2 Vitamin C pills!!!" I'm trying to come up with a descriptive name for someone who is a hypochondriac specializing in food/herbal supplements.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:50 AM on April 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Melatonin is used as a sleep aid, although it takes roughly 4 hours to take effect, and it's very subtle. She's right to be concerned, because it is a sleep aid, but she doesn't realize how weak melatonin is.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:56 AM on April 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm also struck by how many of the calls originate from the ER.
An emergency room called for advice regarding an adult who took an overdose of an unknown medication and was having seizures not responsive to any seizure medication that they have tried.
I guess it makes sense that the ER doctors and nurses would not have the range of knowledge that a specialist would have. I wonder what it takes to become a Certified Specialist in Poison Information? It looks like some of them are doctors, but they also have Pharmacists, nurses, and EMTs on staff.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:00 AM on April 10, 2010


She's right to be concerned, because it is a sleep aid, but she doesn't realize how weak melatonin is.

Nobody knows what the correct dosage of melatonin is. From the Drugs Information Link:
Melatonin has not been evaluated by the FDA for safety, effectiveness, or purity. All potential risks and/or advantages of melatonin may not be known. Additionally, there are no regulated manufacturing standards in place for these compounds.
My point is that all those herbal supplements are sketchy and I wouldn't worry about taking two of any of them-- Valerian, Fish Oil Tablets, Chamomile. I seriously doubt that 2 are going to harm anybody over age 21. Ten or twelve, maybe, but I hardly think the manufacturers are going to sell a substance that can cause any real harm by doubling the dose.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:12 AM on April 10, 2010


I am surprised that one or two pills of a diabetes medication could send an otherwise healthy person into a hypoglycemic coma. Is there any more specific info on this? I couldn't find any.

It can depend on the dosage of the pills and what specifically the pills are. One pill, Diovan, isn't directly related to diabetes, but my doctor proscribes it as preventive thing for kidney disease, which diabetics are more prone to (and thus I can see it being lumped as diabetic pill on the blog). A single 45mg pill of that probably wouldn't be a big deal.

But a pill of a high dosage prescription of Glucophage XR (3,000 mg a day is the limit, I think, dispensed, say at 1,500 mg twice a day)? A pill designed to encourage the release of insulin, letting the body's cells take in sugar? I can see that reeking havoc on a non diabetic. Also consider that Glucophage is supposed to be taken with food, so if the non-diabetic took it without eating and/o on a near empty stomach (when their blood sugar is low), then yes, their normal blood sugar levels could really drop and cause a coma.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:14 AM on April 10, 2010


Two post-secondary students and someone who works with numbers all day every day were all unable to divide a number by two.

My wife and I use to amuse ourselves by demanding that our daughter and/or her friends tell us what time it is via an analog clock and not the numbers on their cell phones.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:18 AM on April 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


Soon to be a TLC reality show -- Why So Blue...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 7:26 AM on April 10, 2010


A 2 year old child ingested a button battery.

Bright kid?

Sorry...
posted by Splunge at 7:28 AM on April 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


A toddler ingested an entire bottle of homeopathic teething tablets.

I'm thinking they have nothing to worry about.

posted by knave at 8:23 AM on April 10

NOT QUITE TRUE.

if the kid wasnt teething, it could have actually triggered the symptoms of teething through "proving". if you have a kid screaming in pain due to provi, not even tylenol would help with it. you'd need to counteract the CHAMOMILLA (normally used for teething) with their opposite homeopathics, something like CAMPHOR or PULSATILLA.

there's no poisoning in drinking a whole thing of homeopathic rememdies, but youcan get some serious proving symptoms that throw you in a loop.
posted by liza at 7:39 AM on April 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


liza: Homeopathy drugs do nothing.
posted by phrontist at 7:46 AM on April 10, 2010 [47 favorites]


A toddler ingested an entire bottle of homeopathic teething tablets.

Possibly this would lead to an important revelation on the part of a well-meaning parent, before they try to treat any other ailments that way. Or, you know, not.


More likely, the well-meaning parent would feel that, if a whole bottle could be ingested without injury, that the remedy must be EXTRA-SAFE and said parent would thenceforth recommend it to other parents with toddlers.
posted by xigxag at 7:47 AM on April 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


A school nurse called because a 16 year old high school student spilled sodium hydroxide onto her arm during a chemistry experiment.

Did she kiss her own arm first?
posted by Splunge at 7:47 AM on April 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


if the kid wasnt teething, it could have actually triggered the symptoms of teething through "proving". if you have a kid screaming in pain due to provi, not even tylenol would help with it. you'd need to counteract the CHAMOMILLA (normally used for teething) with their opposite homeopathics, something like CAMPHOR or PULSATILLA.

also, make sure you only pray for things you really need
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:53 AM on April 10, 2010 [28 favorites]


This reminds me of Rescue 911 with William Shatner. I'll never be able to forget the one where the baby gets put in the boiling-hot bath.
posted by sallybrown at 7:55 AM on April 10, 2010


liza, that would be true if...that were true.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 7:59 AM on April 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


Did she kiss her own arm first?

wUT?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:04 AM on April 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


A caller ate a sandwich with lunchmeat and only after eating it, realized the meat expired 7 months ago

Oh please, did it taste "funny"? Unless you're shopping at the worst grocery store ever, or you're blind (because wouldn't the meat--even having been in the refrigerator--have turned a different color?) I don't see how someone could innocently make this kind of mistake. Sounds like a frigging drama queen looking for some attention.

2. Adults will eat almost anything without knowing or checking what it is.
Nah, only the ones with a death wish.

Caller took a beer out of the minbar in a hotel and quickly realized after one swig that it was urine. Someone had drunk the beer, then filled it with urine and put it back to avoid being charged.

But wait, wouldn't the bottle's vacuum seal have been obviously broken? Doesn't everyone know not to mess with something consumable that's already been opened if you don't know who's had access to what's inside? Maybe the unfortunate drinker was looking for an easy lawsuit against the hotel.
posted by fuse theorem at 8:19 AM on April 10, 2010


When my brother was very young he swallowed all of my Mom's birth control pills. My Mother frantically called the doctor.

"Well I can tell you one thing for sure."
"What?! What?!"
"He is not going to get pregnant."

There's nothing better (from a kid's point of view) than a snarky pediatrician, though that day my Mom wanted to strangle him.
posted by eye of newt at 8:19 AM on April 10, 2010 [18 favorites]


I am surprised that one or two pills of a diabetes medication could send an otherwise healthy person into a hypoglycemic coma. Is there any more specific info on this? I couldn't find any.

People use Valium recreationally so he didn't necessarily take only one or two pills.
posted by 6550 at 8:29 AM on April 10, 2010


wUT?

It's a reference to a scene in Fight Club. The fact the scene (warning: could be a little disturbing if you are human) is available on the Internet either means the Internet is amazing or we're wasting it, depending on your point of view.

posted by yerfatma at 8:31 AM on April 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Great post. Was interested in the call from an ICU looking for treatment recommendations for suspected thallium toxicity (9pm–10pm). "Attempted murder"!

Wikipedia calls it "The poisoner's poison." Although EMedicine's article notes that there have been few reported thallium exposures/fatalities in the US.

I'm a neurology resident and I remember getting very little toxicology in medical school. So, ay minor little treat to read about some of these incidents, and then read up a bit on symptoms, signs, and treatments.

Interestingly, the treatment of choice for thallium seems to be Prussian Blue, one of the first synthetic pigments, and although chemically related to prussic acid (as used, under the trade name Zyklon B, to kill Jews and other undesirables in Nazi Germany, and as used in some US state gas chambers for judicial execution today), is basically nontoxic at treating doses and helps eliminate thallium from the body.
posted by adoarns at 8:34 AM on April 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


[comment removed - maybe save homeopathy grar for metatalk?]
posted by jessamyn at 8:46 AM on April 10, 2010


Did anyone notice that Googling poison control center now gets you a US number to call? Google has been rolling this sort of thing out over the past few months.
posted by jessamyn at 8:48 AM on April 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


adoarns: I'm sure you don't mean to sound callous, but your comment about 'Jews and other undesirables' sounds just the teensiest bit, well, callous.
And I do not think that any state is using gas for executions today.

Just FYI
posted by SLC Mom at 8:52 AM on April 10, 2010


An adult caller was using a Brillo pad to clean a stain on his underwear. As a result of vigorously scrubbing, some of the Brillo cleanser flew into his eye.

There but for the grace of God...
posted by mazola at 8:52 AM on April 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Actually, SLC Mom, five states do use gas in some circumstances: link

FWIW, I thought that it was pretty clear that adoarns was being tongue-in-cheek.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 9:05 AM on April 10, 2010


I called the poison control center once after getting a lungful of warm glacial acetic acid fumes. Gosh did that hurt like hell! They were very nice and actually realistic about the risks of what I'd experienced. I find that the warnings on bottles overblown (mainly because they describe what to do when you're in a giant pile of the chemical and not for the small amounts that tend to be involved) and it was extremely nice to talk to someone who could tell me what to expect in terms of symptoms and when I should make the decision to head to an ER.

As it turned out, I just felt like I had bronchitis for a couple of days. I now refuse to clean out our freeze dryer without knowing what people have been using it for.

I found the number of calls from an ER to poison control a bit shocking as well. There should be a good database for most of the information these MDs/RNs wanted. Maybe it is just more efficient to call the poison control center than to type in the information.
posted by sciencegeek at 9:13 AM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, as of 2006, a couple states in the US still authorized execution by gas chamber, although all states with capital punishment use lethal injections as their primary method. Electrocution and hanging are still authorized by a very small minority of US jurisdictions as well, last I checked. In states with more than one authorized method of execution, it is the prisoner who chooses the method. Pick your poison, as it were.

Caveat: DPIC's data is a little old. It still lists execution by firing squad as permissible in Utah, but I thought they had finally changed the law. In 2003, it was one of three states that still authorized it, but the only one still using it. Here is an unvetted blog post stating that the law has been changed, but persons sentenced prior to the change may still select firing squad. That certainly is how most sentencing laws work
posted by crush-onastick at 9:18 AM on April 10, 2010


or what LittleMissCranky said.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:18 AM on April 10, 2010


Oh please, did it taste "funny"? Unless you're shopping at the worst grocery store ever, or you're blind (because wouldn't the meat--even having been in the refrigerator--have turned a different color?) I don't see how someone could innocently make this kind of mistake. Sounds like a frigging drama queen looking for some attention.

I know the feeling, but after many years of observing other rats in the maze and glancing at myself a few times, I realize we're all capable of doing extraordinarily stupid things that in retrospect don't make a lick of sense.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:32 AM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


This type of service is really helpful.

Personal anecdote: My mom grew some peppers one year that were supposed to be mildly hot. She was cleaning them when she noticed her hands starting to burn. A little while later, they were red, swollen, and she was crying from the pain. My normal tricks of trying to dissolve and remove the capsaicin with fats (like olive oil) didn't work.

We called a nurse hotline attached to the local university hospital and they gave us some advice on what else to do. I think it involved Maalox. Well, it didn't stop her hands from hurting, but it stopped them from getting WORSE.

If we hadn't been able to call, we would have had to drive to the emergency room--a half hour drive--and waited for god knows how long before seeing anyone, since the ER is so overloaded. The hotline was able to give us immediate advice.

(I tried one of the peppers that she hadn't gotten to yet and it was the hottest pepper I had ever tasted in my life. And I like hot peppers. Mom has not grown anything spicier than a bell pepper since.)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:35 AM on April 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


maybe save homeopathy grar for metatalk?

Please no homeopathy in my MetaTalk.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:38 AM on April 10, 2010


I am surprised that one or two pills of a diabetes medication could send an otherwise healthy person into a hypoglycemic coma. Is there any more specific info on this? I couldn't find any.

Mr. Adams takes Metformin for his Type 2 diabetes and when his doctor first prescribed them she said "don't be surprised if you lose some weight." Apparently that's a possible side effect and some doctors prescribe Metformin to non-diabetics as a weight loss drug.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:43 AM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess this is as good a place as any to mention the time I almost poisoned myself by cleaning the toilet bowl.

"Oh, two almost-empty bottles of toilet bowl cleaner in the bathroom. I guess I could just use both of them togeth-- oh shit, why is the toilet water suddenly green?"

Most embarrassing moment ever. Had to call the fire department to fumigate the house. :( Learning to read labels is important, kids!
posted by Wuggie Norple at 9:44 AM on April 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


A 34 year old man took some pills from his roommate, thinking they were Valium®. Turns out they were diabetes medication; the patient is now comatose and having seizures because his blood sugar is so low.

Ugh.

When I was fifteen or so, I was on vacation with a close friend visiting her uncle. She had cramps, and took some pills in a Tylenol bottle. Turns out it was some sort of psychotropic drug (we never found out what, precisely--her uncle said it was "synthetic mescaline he got from a pharmacist friend") and we got to listen to her going on for hours about how her head was burning out of her skull.

We learned an important lesson that day, which is don't store psychotropic drugs in tylenol containers.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:45 AM on April 10, 2010 [7 favorites]


You know, I don't think I've admitted it to anyone, but it was in large part AskMetafilter that actually converted me to the cause of single-payer health care. I had been of a more free-market opinion, and had even had a class in law school on the topic. But day after day, I would open the page and find myself reading something like the question of this poor sumbitch above. And the response, in my head, would be "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD GO TO A DOC -- oh, you don't have insur -- oh."

you will of course have noticed that the state of Illinois is cutting the budget of poison control by 30%. apparently, the U.S. is too poor to afford to help people who may have posioned themselves... the market speaks!
posted by ennui.bz at 9:50 AM on April 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Please no homeopathy in my MetaTalk.

What if we promise to only have a little homeopathy in MetaTalk? That way both sides are satisfied!
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:52 AM on April 10, 2010 [25 favorites]


re: Kutsuwamushi on peppers: I think it involved Maalox.

Quite possibly. Liquid antacid diluted in as much water is the street medic anti-tear gas solution for eye/mouth exposure.
posted by Weighted Companion Cube at 9:56 AM on April 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


I read these logs with great interest, but what I would really like is some follow-up and resolution. DID the person that ate the seven month old lunchmeat get sick? What happened to the baby that was overdosed by the babysitter? How's the groin of the poor schmuck that poured paint thinner on his junk? Inquiring minds want to know!
posted by msali at 10:04 AM on April 10, 2010


Did anyone notice that Googling poison control center now gets you a US number to call?

If you're in the States it does. I'm quite impressed that it seems to be geographically adjusted AND smart about spelling. Here in Toronto, [Canuck] Googling poison control center gives me the Ontario Poison Centre as the first hit.
posted by maudlin at 10:13 AM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am a 'force-swallowed-bunch-of-gasoline-while-siphoning' guy. It was January in Massachusetts and that gasoline was much, much colder than water can get, and came out of the hose like a garden hose at full-blast. Holy crap. I estimate I swallowed a pint of it.

I called poison control and the lady said, in a calm, understanding voice with a touch of perhaps a Colombian accent, "It's OK. You might feel a little sick. Maybe get some heecups."

She was right. I felt a tiny bit sick and I had some heecups.

Worst part? I was so stressed and freaked out, I wanted a cigarette so bad, but I was afraid I'd blow the hell up.

Obviously, when siphoning, it is much much much wiser to do the 'stick the hose far in, seal it with your hand, pull the house far out, gas flows thing'. Be smart, kids.
posted by dirtdirt at 10:27 AM on April 10, 2010 [39 favorites]


I'm quite impressed that it seems to be geographically adjusted AND smart about spelling.

I'm actually curious how many places worldwide that is the case. Actually sort of curious how many countries have national poison control sorts of things.

Maybe it is just more efficient to call the poison control center than to type in the information.

I'm pretty sure that's the case and that this is the sort of thing the Poison Centers exist for.
posted by jessamyn at 10:29 AM on April 10, 2010




This is pretty interesting, but would be even more so if they also posted the ANSWERS. Like, how worried should that woman be about acid burns from her personal massager? And was it the RedBull and Ritalin that caused that college student to vomit, or is she just really bad with stress? And of all the things toddlers put in their mouths, which ones should I be extremely worried about and which ones can I just be very worried about?
posted by chrominance at 10:43 AM on April 10, 2010


I'm pretty sure that's the case and that this is the sort of thing the Poison Centers exist for.

And while you can Google all the poison references and LD-50 values you wish, sometimes what's most important is having an actual person, even if it's just a voice on the other end of a phone line, telling you that you may have some heecups but overall you're going to be fine and you won't be dropping dead in a few minutes. (And, presumably, you should go talk to your doctor sometime after.)

Overall this is a fascinating cross-section of people, their behavior, and complacency leading to bad habits. The story about the grandma making rat poison peanut butter crackers and leaving them in the kitchen for her grandson to discover was just heartbreaking in its irresponsbility. The mother who rushed her daughter to the ER after eating two chewable vitamin tables instead of one (which was one of the only entries that earned a lecture from the blog), not so much.
posted by Spatch at 10:44 AM on April 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


Er, vitamin tablets. Tablets. T-S. Eating a whole vitamin table would probably be bad no matter who you are.
posted by Spatch at 10:45 AM on April 10, 2010


My normal tricks of trying to dissolve and remove the capsaicin with fats (like olive oil) didn't work.

Just FYI, but animal fats work much better. I soaked my fingers in full-fat yogurt (and then rubbed them with butter) after a very burny session of pepper-chopping and they pretty much stopped the burning.
posted by rtha at 11:15 AM on April 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


Here in Toronto, [Canuck] Googling poison control center gives me the Ontario Poison Centre as the first hit.


Um, don't you mean poison control centre?

I get the Ontario link as well [in Edmonton]. Not sure if they've figured out our great white north yet.

posted by beepbeepboopboop at 11:23 AM on April 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


> Even your plate of beans can be poisonous

I actually phoned the poison centre over that--I was making vegetarian chilli from dried beans and forgot to cook them after soaking them. I didn't realize it until I had a cople of mouthfuls of very crunchy chili. They'd cooked long enough not to be toxic, but not nearly long enough to be edible.

So I'm proof one can underthink a plate of beans.
posted by Decimask at 11:23 AM on April 10, 2010 [9 favorites]


> Here in Toronto, [Canuck] Googling poison control center gives me the Ontario Poison Centre as the first hit

IP-sensitive results.
posted by Decimask at 11:25 AM on April 10, 2010


I once had to call poison control twice in ONE DAY after my 1-year-old learned to undo screw caps. The first was because she ate about a tablespoon of fluoridated toothpaste; the second was because she consumed most of a tube of diaper rash cream. I felt so embarrassed, particularly because they ask for your name and address for recordkeeping purposes. (That way, if 911 is dispatched to your house and they find you unresponsive, they can call the Poison Control center and find out if you made a call.) I was convinced that CPS and the sheriff were going to show up the next day.

She was fine, btw. And for the record, they were WAY more concerned about the toothpaste than the butt paste.
posted by KathrynT at 11:29 AM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


An adult woman called because a battery leaked out of her personal massager and she was concerned about battery acid burns.

ZOMG CALLER OF THE YEAR.

We learned an important lesson that day, which is don't store psychotropic drugs in tylenol containers.

This is also covered in an amazing episode of Six Feet Under in which Ruth Fisher accidentally takes ecstasy. Priceless.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:03 PM on April 10, 2010


grapefruitmoon: "An adult woman called because a battery leaked out of her personal massager and she was concerned about battery acid burns.

ZOMG CALLER OF THE YEAR.

We learned an important lesson that day, which is don't store psychotropic drugs in tylenol containers.

This is also covered in an amazing episode of Six Feet Under in which Ruth Fisher accidentally takes ecstasy. Priceless.
"

Also Death at a Funeral.
posted by Splunge at 12:20 PM on April 10, 2010


(I can't believe this hasn't been crosslinked here yet. Forgive me if I missed it.)

Can I eat this crab?
posted by mwhybark at 12:25 PM on April 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Um, don't you mean poison control centre?

The point was that even though I deliberately spelled "centre" the American way, it found the right listing. (Which Google does for all kinds of things, of course, but it's still cool.)
posted by maudlin at 12:26 PM on April 10, 2010



Did anyone notice that Googling poison control center now gets you a US number to call?

If you're in the States it does. I'm quite impressed that it seems to be geographically adjusted AND smart about spelling. Here in Toronto, [Canuck] Googling poison control center gives me the Ontario Poison Centre as the first hit.


Out in New Brunswick, I get a bunch of generic results: the AAPCC, the ASPCA, a band called The Poison Control Center[clearly american], and a website to buy viagra/cialis.

Weird results.
posted by Lemurrhea at 12:42 PM on April 10, 2010


A 68 year old man accidentally used capsaicin cream instead of hemorrhoid cream.

nnnnnnooooooOOOOOOOOOOOOO
posted by Baby_Balrog at 12:52 PM on April 10, 2010 [13 favorites]


And while you can Google all the poison references and LD-50 values you wish, sometimes what's most important is having an actual person, even if it's just a voice on the other end of a phone line, telling you that you may have some heecups but overall you're going to be fine and you won't be dropping dead in a few minutes.

hoo boy, that's for sure. One kid ate up a bottle of Kid's Tylenol and the NIH site said ZOMG HOSPITAL NOW!!1 and the Poison control guy said, "no, he really can eat the whole bottle without harm". He was fine.

Same kid had enough salt to make him slightly nauseous about a year later. I thought it wasn't a big deal, but the lady on the phone said "hospital. Which one do you want me to tell you're coming?" He turned out fine, again.

I've got them on speed dial.
posted by lysdexic at 12:58 PM on April 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


What if we promise to only have a little homeopathy in MetaTalk? That way both sides are satisfied!
Take the amount of homeopathy talk that would normally induce annoyance on MetaTalk and then dilute it 10:1 with pure blue, be sure to succuss it well, and repeat 99 times. That should be the appropriate homeopathic dose for MetaTalk.
posted by adoarns at 1:35 PM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


jessamyn: [comment removed - maybe save homeopathy grar for metatalk?]

Instead of deleting the comment, you could have countered it with 10x Plateofbeansium and cover with a HAMBURGER poultice until the next full moon.
posted by dr_dank at 2:08 PM on April 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


A school nurse called because a 16 year old high school student spilled sodium hydroxide onto her arm during a chemistry experiment.

Wait, what? Neither the lab instructor (and possibly assistant) in a place with hazardous chemicals nor the nurse knew what a MSDS is? I mean, it's better they called poison control than not if they were unsure, but wtf? I'd have that program suspended for a safety training upgrade so fast...
posted by ctmf at 2:25 PM on April 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


A caller ate a sandwich with lunchmeat and only after eating it, realized the meat expired 7 months ago

Marge, I'd like to be alone with the sandwich for a moment.
posted by me & my monkey at 2:25 PM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Come to think of it, did they teach the students what a MSDS is, before giving them lab assignments using chemicals? Did they review the MSDS for the chemicals expected to be used in a safety brief before the experiment on that day? There's 20+ chances right off the top for someone in class to have had the right answer. Multiple failure.

That one pisses me off.
posted by ctmf at 2:32 PM on April 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's nothing better (from a kid's point of view) than a snarky pediatrician, though that day my Mom wanted to strangle him.
When I was little, my brother put a fishhook through my ear. (Disclaimer: totally, totally, totally my fault. He told me over and over not to stand behind him when he was casting off and I crept up on him when his back was turned anyway.) My folks took me to the emergency room because the hook was placed in such a manner that they could not get it out. The doctor noted that it was perfectly placed in the center of the lobe and, as he got the medical wire-cutters, asked my mother if she wanted him to pierce the other ear while he was at it. She declined.
posted by Karmakaze at 2:49 PM on April 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


Just remember:

A. At seventeen these same people are issued a driver license and share the road with YOU.

B. At eighteen they they have a vote that is exactly EQUAL in weight to yours.


I would add:

C. They breed.
posted by SuzB at 3:45 PM on April 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


A hospital called because one of their nurses had inadvertently given a patient 100 units of insulin instead of 10 units of insulin.

This isn't as stupid as it sounds. At my hospital the official policy is you have to write out the whole "units" rather than "u" as 10u in scribbly handwriting can look very much like 100 and very junior nurses will almost never question a medication order!
posted by Silentgoldfish at 3:59 PM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


My immediate reaction was the sad knowledge that when I am a senior citizen in a hospital bed, these people twenty years my junior will be the ones measuring out my dosages.

Registered nurses actually have to know their math to make it through school, because there are medication calculation exams all the time. At our school, if you can't pass the med calc exams, you don't pass the class. And if you don't pass the class, you don't graduate. Nursing assistants and the like who are increasingly being hired instead of RNs, because they are less expensive, do not have such rigorous enforcement of math training. You want to be sure the person giving your meds at the hospital knows math better than those folks at the grocery store? Support your local RNs.
posted by vytae at 4:01 PM on April 10, 2010 [15 favorites]


I heart the poison control. It's such a nasty job. The only time I ever called them was in 1998 when my manic depressive boyfriend decided to take 60 hydrocodone and leave a suicide note in my apartment. I wasn't 100% sure he actually did it or was just faking it for attention, so I, thinking about WWTNT (what would the neighbors think), decided to look on the first page of the phone book and call poison control. This was basically the conversation:
"Poison control, what's your problem?"
"Um, I think a friend of mine might have taken 60 hydrocodone tablets. Should I call 911 or
just drive him to the ER which is five minutes away? And would eating bread help?"
"What makes you think this person took 60 hydrocodone tablets?"
"Well, he left a suicide note, said he was ending it all, and he's being bitchy right now and won't tell me how many of them he took but on the bottle it says 60."
"So how many did YOU take?"
"Um, none. I'm calling about my friend. Honest." (at that point I could HEAR the poison control operator rolling her eyes....)

That was basically the gist of the conversation. It was the MOST worthless conversation ever. To be fair, they did keep calling back (callerID and all) and asked me how I was doing, or I'm sorry how my 'friend' was doing. I was convinced the cops were going to show up at my residence and write out a police report with my name on it. Uggh. But you know when you hear those audios of incompetent 911 operators? It was just like that. So infuriating. And I won't even tell you about the one time I called a suicide hotline.....
posted by WilliamMD at 4:43 PM on April 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Nobody knows what the correct dosage of melatonin is.

FTR, I take melatonin regularly. There is no federally established dose. However, up to 3mg is usually sufficient, and a lot of the tablets are 1-3mg, most of them being 3 that I've found. Melatonin is one of those substances which is effective up to a certain dose and less effective over that dose. More than 3mg tends to be less effective for most people, so taking double the dose is likely to have less of an effect than a regular dose.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:49 PM on April 10, 2010


(I tried one of the peppers that she hadn't gotten to yet and it was the hottest pepper I had ever tasted in my life. And I like hot peppers. Mom has not grown anything spicier than a bell pepper since.)

Ahhh! That really does hurt. I live in the land of hot chile peppers, and one thing you learn very young is that you always wear rubber gloves when preparing hot peppers. It's sort of a rite of initiation when someone's not from here and finds out the hard way, but it's still no fun to go through that.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:59 PM on April 10, 2010


A 1 year old licked his father’s deodorant stick.

This is funny on multiple levels.
posted by bjork24 at 5:25 PM on April 10, 2010


But a pill of a high dosage prescription of Glucophage XR (3,000 mg a day is the limit, I think, dispensed, say at 1,500 mg twice a day)? A pill designed to encourage the release of insulin, letting the body's cells take in sugar? I can see that reeking havoc on a non diabetic. Also consider that Glucophage is supposed to be taken with food, so if the non-diabetic took it without eating and/o on a near empty stomach (when their blood sugar is low), then yes, their normal blood sugar levels could really drop and cause a coma.

My endo says told me Glucophage/Metformin works by stopping the liver from releasing glucose, not by increasing insulin. Drugs like glyburide, glimperide, etc. work by making your body release more insulin and can drop a diabetic's blood glucose fast. I can't even imagine how crazy fast it could drop a nondiabetic.
posted by SuzySmith at 6:24 PM on April 10, 2010



Same kid had enough salt to make him slightly nauseous about a year later.


Oh yeah, salt is serious shit, man. Most people don't realise, but 1 gram per kg of body weight is enough to kill you, horribly. For a child, that's not very much salt at all.
posted by smoke at 6:26 PM on April 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


You want to be sure the person giving your meds at the hospital knows math better than those folks at the grocery store? Support your local RNs.

This. A thousand times over.

My mom was an RN before she became permanently disabled on the job. She then taught nursing for a few years and truly, nurses have to know their shit to get licensed as RNs. A few bad apples here and there and the fact that nurses do an amazing amount of work for almost no recognition gets overshadowed damn quickly. It's pretty easy to make nurses the targets for sloppy decision making in hospitals as they're a) doing almost all the work and b) have almost none of the authority, but it's not a fair picture of the fact that every successful case owes as much, if not more, to nurses than every failure that makes the news.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:55 PM on April 10, 2010 [8 favorites]


Oh yeah, salt is serious shit, man. Most people don't realise, but 1 gram per kg of body weight is enough to kill you, horribly. For a child, that's not very much salt at all.

This would explain how 'moonMan went into a minor case of liver failure at age 8 from a cheese overdose. I've never understood that, but if the cheese were particularly salty... or perhaps it was just bad cheese.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:57 PM on April 10, 2010


I favourited this because it initially made me laugh at the absurdity (eating the homeopathic teething pain relieft pills prior to teething could stimulate teething pains!), but then it seemed to become serious, like this poster actually believes that homeopathic medicine is something more than a stupid placebo. Which makes me want to cry.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:28 PM on April 10, 2010


here honey, go talk to some of these good old MDs who happen to be homeopaths. i only take medical and health advice from real doctors.
posted by liza at 7:55 PM on April 10, 2010


Thanks, but I find that crystal therapy does the trick.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:57 PM on April 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


This would explain how 'moonMan went into a minor case of liver failure at age 8 from a cheese overdose. I've never understood that, but if the cheese were particularly salty... or perhaps it was just bad cheese.

Really? I've never heard of a cheese overdose..makes me worried as I eat my body weight it in daily and have been since I was wee... The things you learn on metafilter!
posted by kanata at 8:08 PM on April 10, 2010


i only take medical and health advice from real doctors.

So you believe that taking medicine, mixing it with water, and mixing that with water, and mixing that with water, makes the medicine more powerful?
posted by Evilspork at 8:15 PM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


first of all, i don't treat medication, remedies, therapies or treatments as articles of faith. having MDs who understand that is an advantage: you go with what works for you, not by arbitrary health care decisions. there are so many variables when dealing with chronic illness you dont have to just pick one.

yet, in the end, it doesn't matter what i say, doesn't it?

so again, here's a list of actual MDs who to talk to about homeopathy, acupuncture, chinese herbology, nutrition therapy and other forms of alternative medicines. go email the good old docs of Sydney Hillman Family Practice with your questions and concerns. i mean, their credentials are there. why don't you question their ability to practice medicine, no? it's not like they don't prescribe pharmaceuticals. but if you want to question their ability as MDs tell them yourselves. i mean, you know more about medicine and health than they do, right?

(btw NYers: they take all types of insurance, even Medicare and if you don't have any they will put you on a sliding scale. been with them for almost 10 years, 4 of those w/o medical insurance)
posted by liza at 8:45 PM on April 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


yeah, why don't more people who don't have any medical education or experience as medical practitioners or doctors go around challenging doctors?

then we can get the english majors to talk about how the math majors don't know what they're talking about and have some painters design nuclear weapons

DOWN WITH SKILL, DOWN WITH EXPERTISE, DOWN WITH EDUCATION AND KNOWLEDGE! NOBODY KNOWS BETTER THAN ANYONE ABOUT ANYTHING!
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:59 PM on April 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


I feel for the guy with the paint stripper soaked lap - I once did something similar with a liter of water-saturated phenol. Zero to naked-and-under-the-safety-shower (in front of a small crowd of shocked/amused/concerned coworkers) in about 20 seconds. I was also peripherally associated with someone who did the same thing with concentrated HF, but that story didn't have nearly as happy an ending: all the clothing removal, water immersion and good advice in the world was of no help to him. The lesson here is to work standing, and to remember that glassware and reagents are worth less than your ass so just jump clear and let it smash.
posted by overyield at 9:10 PM on April 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


I am so sorry that I hadn't read the thread all the way to Jessamyn's first admonishment before snarking at the twee magic. And now it's getting shouty. Bad Fish. No cookie.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:16 PM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


She was fine, btw. And for the record, they were WAY more concerned about the toothpaste than the butt paste.

A close friend of mine was working at the local hospital where bodies are sent when the cause of death needs to be determined. One day, a body came in and absolutely nothing was apparent. There were no external signs of illness or trauma. So, they cut open his stomach. Inside, there are mounds of this white gloopy stuff. They start running all the usual tests trying to figure out what in the world he'd ingested so much of. Everything kept turning up negative. Eventually, one of the more reckless chaps sticks his finger in the gunk and tastes it. It was toothpaste. The man had ingested three tubes of mint toothpaste, which led to his death.

Moral of the story: Toothpaste can kill.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:40 PM on April 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


Toothpaste toxicity. Who knew?
posted by SLC Mom at 9:54 PM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm never brushing my teeth again.
posted by dirigibleman at 12:01 AM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


adoarns: treatment recommendations for suspected thallium toxicity (9pm–10pm). "Attempted murder"!

The Young Poisoner's Handbook is a good movie, based on a real story, about thallium poisoning. Black, black comedy.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:13 AM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is a terrific find; thanks for posting it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:27 AM on April 11, 2010


FWIW my wife is a 911 fire-emergency dispatcher and she regularly comes home and says "thank god for Poison Control". She knows what to do if you have chest pain or fall off the roof, but telling her your kid just ate a tube of white stuff? Poison control is is a lifesaver. Um. As it were.
posted by smartyboots at 12:43 AM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Same kid had enough salt to make him slightly nauseous about a year later.

I mis-interpreted that at first and was impressed that you remembered about the salt after that long and linked it to the nausea...
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:14 AM on April 11, 2010


My little brother and I once decided to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon mixing random household chemicals in the basement. Later we were telling our mum (a pediatric RN) about our misguided little experiments. She was sort of doing the passive-listening-to-my-kid's-inane-babble thing until I got to the part where the very fumes from our concoctions had been melting wax off the kites hanging on the wall.

So, that whole game got shut down pretty quick.

imagine how brilliant, handsome and hilarious I'd be if I hadn't burnt off half my brain cells at the tender age of ten
posted by tivalasvegas at 7:35 AM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Exogenous melatonin has not been shown to be more effective than placebo at treating sleep disorders, in multiple studies. Here's one from the BMJ.

And liza, if I can show you a far longer "list of MDs" who are not making a buck from peddling quackery and who consider homeopathy to be ridiculous mystical thinking (along with much else in your list), would you concede the point? If not, your argument is specious argument by appeal to authority. That "authority" is proposed by you to reside in the possession of an MD license. But many with MDs gotten rich from "alternative medicine" quackery. Many have also committed malpractice or murder, for that matter. So I could produce a list of MDs who recommend unorthodox treatments that have killed their patients. What would that prove?

The proper appeal to authority is not to your physicians' assurances (and it's especially absurd to tell us we have to go ask them to validate your opinion). Your physicians are wrong at best, quacks at worst. The proper appeal to authority in science is to peer-reviewed, double blind, clinical trials. And the vast majority of such studies of homeopathy have proved what physics and chemistry and common sense would plainly have suggested in advance, that a doctrine of water retaining the "memory" of substances which have been diluted out of any discoverable concentration is, and must be, utter bullshit, and any therapeutic claim descending therefrom ridiculous on its face.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:13 AM on April 11, 2010 [13 favorites]


So while we're appealing to authority, here's an MD who teaches on a faculty of complementary medicine, writing that homeopathy has been pretty much proven to be ineffective above placebo:

Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2002 Dec;54(6):577-82.
A systematic review of systematic reviews of homeopathy.
Ernst E.


And here's a few more of hundreds (I'll save you the trouble: both articles say homeopathic claims of efficacy are BS):

BMJ. 2002 Mar 2;324(7336):520.
Use of ultramolecular potencies of allergen to treat asthmatic people allergic to house dust mite: double blind randomised controlled clinical trial.
Lewith GT, Watkins AD, Hyland ME, Shaw S, Broomfield JA, Dolan G, Holgate ST.

Eur J Cancer. 2006 Feb;42(3):282-9. Epub 2006 Jan 11.
Efficacy of homeopathic therapy in cancer treatment.
Milazzo S, Russell N, Ernst E.

One could go on all day, but if you'll ask them personally why they think there's no evidence for homeopathy, I'll call Dr. Hillman and get his opinion as well.

And man do I hope Medicare is not really subsidizing homeopathy. That would be scandalous.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:49 AM on April 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


Part of the recent kerfluffle over homeopathy in the UK is that the NHS has been funding homeopathic "treatments".
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:41 AM on April 11, 2010


A 1 year old child scraped some soap off a bar of soap with her teeth.

It was... soap poisoning.

I told you not to use Lifebuoy!
posted by cereselle at 12:57 PM on April 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oh yes, Pope Guilty -- I know that well. Because, in fact, the circular argument of many advocates of homeopathy (and other unproven or patently phony "alternative" treatments for various conditions and diseases) has been that *because* the NHS pays for homeopathy or the German health system pays for St. Johns Wort as a treatment for depression, *therefore* those unproven remedies have been validated and "must" work. (The US government funds abstinence based sex education too. And the DARE program. Both are proven not to work, but it's politically dangerous not to fund them, and I suspect the same is true of wo-woo fake medicine in Europe. And heck, that's why the NIH has funded so much alt med research in recent years, most of which has shown we skeptics to be entirely correct).

Indeed, a lot of the recent British literature (including stuff I just cited) has been specifically targeted at challenging the economic value of funding unproven, or known useless, treatments. There is an interesting counterargument -- that the placebo effect is not an unproven treatment, and often as effective (in an evidence-based sense) as any proven treatment, because people generally tend to heal naturally and then falsely attribute that either to the medical treatment they received or whatever quack remedy they purchased instead. It's why doctors prescribe treatments they know to be placebos -- it makes the patient feel like she is doing something proactive, while she heals naturally, while introducing no medical risks associated with using active remedies.


But it also enriches venal, lying quacks. And perpetuates the myths that most of these "alternative" remedies have any evidence to support them above bad studies and anecdotes, or any clear picture of their associated risks.

Because there are no "alternatives" to evidence-based medicine. The right word is "unproven" (for many things, like melatonin) and effectively "disproven" for others, like homeopathy and chiropractic. But you'd never know that to read the popular media.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:41 PM on April 11, 2010


er, I guess that would be "us skeptics"
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:42 PM on April 11, 2010


The problem with the "but placebos work!" argument is that lying to people about their health is reprehensible.

What it ultimately comes down to is that, like all woo, it encourages people to abandon reason and embrace irrationality and unreason. We are what we repeatedly do, to steal from Aristotle, and building habits of unreason does damage to ourselves and to those around us.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:56 PM on April 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


Pope Guilty: "have some painters design nuclear weapons"

Actually this is fucking genius idea.
posted by mwhybark at 3:34 PM on April 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


People should be aware that not everything labeled as "homeopathic" is so diluted to the point that it does not contain any of the claimed product at all. Notably, Zicam is marketed as "homeopathic" yet their lozenges contain non-negligible amounts of zinc compounds.

Note I'm not saying that homeopathic remedies work even if they're not diluted beyond recognition, nor that products like Zicam which do have the claimed compounds are effective. What I am saying is that people shouldn't say, "'Homeopathic!' Hah, that means it doesn't have any of the compound at all and I can take as much as I want." I'm also saying that skeptics taking hundreds of doses of a "homeopathic" remedy as some sort of protest is really, really stupid unless they have independent laboratory confirmation of what's actually in the "remedy."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:03 AM on April 12, 2010


Thanks for posting our blog! All of them are 100% true cases we have received (all with a few details switched around for privacy). Goes to show that #1 we live in a poisonous world and #2 to us, there is no such thing as a silly question. Anything that can be tasted, licked, swallowed, smelled, sipped, injected, inserted, inhaled, drank, snorted, gulped, sniffed, touched, splashed, or sprayed--we've gotten called about.
Great comments too, there's a bunch of questions I'm going to respond to directly.
Cheers,
Carol D from the IPC
posted by Carol@ILPoisonCenter at 10:18 AM on April 12, 2010 [30 favorites]


Awesome! Thanks for dropping in on us, Carol!
posted by five fresh fish at 10:44 AM on April 12, 2010


we never found out what, precisely--her uncle said it was "synthetic mescaline he got from a pharmacist friend"

Mescaline is the drug. Native Americans from the Southwest area have been using it for centuries in their rituals. Mescaline occurs naturally in the Peyote cactus.
posted by I am the Walrus at 10:54 AM on April 12, 2010


Mescaline is the drug. Native Americans from the Southwest area have been using it for centuries in their rituals. Mescaline occurs naturally in the Peyote cactus.

Right, but, well, mescaline doesn't generally come in pills
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:44 AM on April 12, 2010


Cool! Welcome to MeFi Carol!
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:25 PM on April 12, 2010


I replied to some of these great comments/questions. Poisoning and poison centers is my all time favorite subject (it is after all, what I’ve dedicated my life to) so if anyone has any other burning questions or any more discussion about either, I’d love to hear.

chinston- wrt a couple tabs of a diabetes med being dangerous: the class of meds that is such a big problem is the sulfonylureas (glipizide, glyburide, etc). They cause your pancreas to churn out insulin. Insulin = glucose going into cells = less glucose in your bloodstream. Too much insulin = really low amount of glucose in your bloodstream = even less glucose (i.e. energy) in your brain = brain can’t function.

For everyone who wondered what happened to all these people: we only put in a few sentences each for brevity, AND more importantly, we get a full history on all of our calls (surrounding the exposure and on the individual patient) before we come up with our assessment and plan. What may be ok for one person may not be for another depending on things like health conditions, other meds they’re on, weight, etc, etc. We didn’t want people to assume that what happened to one person will happen to everyone.

Secret Life of Gravy “It would never occur to me to call a poison hotline if I realized I took 2 tablets of anything, much less an OTC supplement.”
--We do get quite a few calls that end up being non-toxic but it’s always better to call and be sure! There are some things out there that you would never think are toxic, but actually are, and vice versa. We’d always prefer people call, just to check.
“but I hardly think the manufacturers are going to sell a substance that can cause any real harm by doubling the dose.”
--True, most substances are not an issue in a single double dose (esp OTC meds) but chronically doubling up, or taking two of a prescription med in certain people can cause a prob. Always call to double check :)

“I'm also struck by how many of the calls originate from the ER.”
-- About 20% of all our calls come from doctors and nurses for advice on how to treat their poison/OD patients. Our specialists are highly trained in toxicology, and we have the most up to date tox info out there. Think about it: even a busy ER doc is only going to see one or two poisonings each shift, along with the myriad of other things they see (strokes, accidents, heart attacks, appendicitis, etc). All we do is poison, we handle 250-300 poisonings each day. Practice makes perfect!

“I wonder what it takes to become a Certified Specialist in Poison Information?”
---our specialists are physicians or pharmacists (doctorate in pharmacy) or nurses with ER/ICU experience. Everyone goes through a very rigorous training period, and after working for a minimum of one year answering calls under supervision, the specialists are eligible to take a certification exam, upon passing which they are certified specialists. We do have some EMTs and technician level folks who handle the lower acuity calls. I know this is the case for the states and Canada, not exactly sure about poison centers in other places.

chrominance: “And of all the things toddlers put in their mouths, which ones should I be extremely worried about and which ones can I just be very worried about?”
--we always want everyone to call every time because it really all depends on the person, their personal medical history and MOST important, the dose. Paracelsus, the father of toxicology said it best, “All things are poison and nothing is without poison, only the dose permits something not to be poisonous.” Water and oxygen can be poisonous if the exposure is large enough! Furthermore, what are medicines but ‘therapeutic poisons’, right? If you have kids, check out our Top 5 things you didn’t know could be poisonous to kids blog

"And while you can Google all the poison references and LD-50 values you wish, sometimes what's most important is having an actual person, even if it's just a voice on the other end of a phone line…."
---EXACTLY, perfectly said. I always use the analogy: just because you have a calculus book, doesn’t mean you can do integrals perfectly. Same thing goes for facts on poisoning.
posted by Carol@ILPoisonCenter at 12:45 PM on April 12, 2010 [224 favorites]


All we do is poison, we handle 250-300 poisonings each day. Practice makes perfect!

Carol, thanks for your service to our state and your informative post.

And congratulations on being an early front-runner for this year's most out-of-context sidebar quote award.
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 2:03 PM on April 12, 2010 [8 favorites]


Hi Carol, thanks for posting here!
(And thanks by proxy for talking to my mom when I was a kid and ate a bottle of chewable vitamins.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:22 PM on April 12, 2010


And congratulations on being an early front-runner for this year's most out-of-context sidebar quote award.

For future reference, here's how it was linked on the sidebar:

April 12
"All we do is poison, we handle 250-300 poisonings each day. Practice makes perfect!"
posted by filthy light thief at 2:23 PM on April 12, 2010 [16 favorites]


ha! I didn't realize how bad that sounded. we're the poison center, we poison people. not exactly the key messaging we are after!
reminds me of my little sister, when we were kids she thought fire-fighters started fires. poor thing hid in the closet everytime she heard a siren.
posted by Carol@ILPoisonCenter at 2:33 PM on April 12, 2010 [17 favorites]


Thanks a lot, Carol! Much appreciated.
posted by chinston at 2:35 PM on April 12, 2010




Metafilter: All we do is poison.
posted by electroboy at 2:56 PM on April 12, 2010


Carol, welcome to Metafilter! :D
posted by zarq at 2:57 PM on April 12, 2010


Interesting blog and conversation. Carol, thanks for joining mefi to join in! Very cool. Hope you stick around, it's a great place!

I have called Poison Control once, when the dog I was taking care of ate an entire box of chocolate chip granola bars. The guy one the phone said that there was probably not enough chocolate to make the dog sick, and told me what symptoms to look out for but that otherwise she would be fine.

And everyone's stories about "my kid ate this" or "I did this" validates Dear-Abby-fueled cautiousness!
posted by radioamy at 2:58 PM on April 12, 2010


The guy one the phone said that there was probably not enough chocolate to make the dog sick

Hooray for low quality chocolate!.
posted by electroboy at 3:15 PM on April 12, 2010


I've had to call poison control twice in my life. It makes me feel better to know both instances feature on this blog -- the hot sauce dare and the spider bite. It's comforting to know other people are also dumb.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:00 PM on April 12, 2010


Jacquilynne,
not dumb, just....un-fortuitous. Stuff like this happens to EVERYBODY, and that's exactly why we did the blog. not to suggest than anyone is 'dumb' or to poke fun but rather to show all the different ways all different kinds of people can have a run in with a 'poison'; how ubiquitous it is. and that when you do have such a run in, there is someone you can call for help who won't laugh or blow you off.
Hope you had a good experience with your poison center.
posted by Carol@ILPoisonCenter at 4:10 PM on April 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


I called poison control just a few weeks ago, after I had a strong reaction to a medication my dentist gave me (after a root canal) and he hadn't returned my call. All the documentation with the meds said such a reaction was cause for immediate and urgent concern -- and the person on the phone said that I didn't have to worry given the duration of my treatment, and that this particular drug is seen as harmless yet has this side-effect so often that people call about it regularly.

Thanks, poison control person, who was patient and awesome!
posted by davejay at 4:46 PM on April 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Carol, thanks for taking the time to respond to my questions, and welcome to MetaFilter! I think you guys are fantastic-- a truly great service-- and I am so glad you are there to answer the phone. I cannot imagine why anybody would think it a good idea to cut your funding.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:22 PM on April 12, 2010


I have called Poison Control once, when the dog I was taking care of ate an entire box of chocolate chip granola bars. The guy one the phone said that there was probably not enough chocolate to make the dog sick, and told me what symptoms to look out for but that otherwise she would be fine.

Now seems like a good time to mention that there are several veterinary poison control hotlines out there. All of the ones I am familiar with require payment via credit card over the phone, but if you have questions about something that your pet ingested, it is probably worth it to call a specialized service. I do know that most human poison control hotlines will answer pet-related questions. but I don't know how much training/experience they have with veterinary drugs or substances that are harmless or therapeutic to people, but can be deadly in animals. Chocolate in dogs is a fairly well-known one, but grapes/raisins, onions, and xylitol (found in most sugar-free gum) can also be serious toxins to pets.

Carol, if you're still around, do your staffers get any training in veterinary toxins?
posted by Rock Steady at 6:05 PM on April 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Rock, good point. no, we do not have any vets on staff at our center. and as you mentioned, since there are so many things that are poisonous to animals but not to humans and vice versa whenever we get an animal exposure we recommend people call the ASPCA animal poison center, where you can talk to a vet toxicologist. the number is 888-426-4435. they do charge because they don't get grant funding or gov appropriations like human poison centers, but they are absolutely the place to call for a pet poisoning.
posted by Carol@ILPoisonCenter at 6:21 PM on April 12, 2010 [9 favorites]


Carol. The last time that I called local poison control (NYC) I was calling because I accidentally used the wrong ointment on my Quaker parrot. We had a tube from the vet that was essentially just a Neosporin type. But I used a neosporin with lidocaine that was older. Then i realized that she was licking it off of her leg.

I was worried that the lidocaine might kill her. As well as the petroleum base.

I love my Scooby, she was doing what is called plucking. That's where a bird starts preening, and for whatever reason (dry skin, irritation, parasites) they keep chewing right through their skin.

She had open sores on her leg. And the avian vet suggested that we keep the leg wet. But she wouldn't take her usual baths. So he gave us the neo.

Anyway, she licked up all of the neo/ lidocaine and I was a crazy person.

So NY poison control gave me the Pet Poison control number.

Do you know that you have to give the Pet Poison control in NYC your credit card number? And it costs $40 for a consultation?

So I did all that and i got put on hold.

For hours.

And I called back NYC Poison Control. And I told the person on the phone exactly what happened. She said that she didn't know that the number that she was giving out was a pay number.

Anyway she told me to keep an eye on Scooby. To see if she looked unusual, like walikng wrong or dizzy. She suggested that I keep her on my shoulder. And if she fell off to call back.

I went to sleep that night with Scooby on my shoulder. Sitting up on my recliner. Every time she fluffed up, I jumped. I sat that way until dawn. Scooby spent the night cuddled up to my neck. She was fine the next morning.

You guys are so cool. I can't thank the person I spoke to. So I thank you.

And Scooby thanks you. She's fine now.
posted by Splunge at 7:55 PM on April 12, 2010 [14 favorites]


If we hadn't been able to call, we would have had to drive to the emergency room--a half hour drive--and waited for god knows how long before seeing anyone, since the ER is so overloaded. The hotline was able to give us immediate advice.

I've never bothered with gloves when slicing chiles, but found out the hard way that prepping a bowlful for pickling is a much bigger exposure than one or two for salsa. I tried everything I could find on the internet (applying vegetable fat, dairy, animal fat, ice, baking soda, taking OTC painkiller, etc.) and fidgeted and ranted a little and then gave up on remedies and just got drunk. Which kept me distracted enough until the swelling and welts and pain subsided.

It never would have occurred to me to call poison control, though. Huh.
posted by desuetude at 10:02 PM on April 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Right, but, well, mescaline doesn't generally come in pills

I had a pill once that I was told was "mescaline." I don't really know what was in it, but it was vaguely hallucinogenic and made me very stressed out. Not that fun, really.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:09 PM on April 12, 2010


when we were kids she thought fire-fighters started fires

To be fair, she wasn't entirely wrong.
posted by flabdablet at 2:50 AM on April 13, 2010


Welcome to Metafilter, Carol, from a fellow Illini!

It's stuff like this that reminds me just how cool it is to be a MeFi....
posted by Samizdata at 4:46 AM on April 13, 2010


I want to see this as a reality show on TLC: "What Not To Ingest."

They do have this.
posted by TedW at 6:14 AM on April 13, 2010


This blog is extremely cool. What a neat way to raise awareness. It never even occurred to me that poison control centers would have their funding threatened. Grumble grumble.



And thanks to the poison control person, name long lost to history, who helped my mom calm down after Wee Baby Neofelis ate a rhododendron leaf way back in nineteen-aught-diggity-three or whenever. Yay poison control!
posted by Neofelis at 11:40 AM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


not dumb, just....un-fortuitous.

Well, the spider bite wasn't really dumb (though I may have overreacted to it a tad -- still, my arm did swell up and turn red), but I was there, and I can assure you, the hot sauce dare was definitely dumb.

Fortunately for me, I was the instigator but not the drinker of the hot sauce. Still, it was the last time I believed anything I read in Encyclopedia Brown.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:08 PM on April 13, 2010


Still, it was the last time I believed anything I read in Encyclopedia Brown.

As well you should.
posted by Evilspork at 12:23 PM on April 13, 2010


chronically doubling up, or taking two of a prescription med in certain people can cause a prob.

My brother-in-law, a doctor in CA, kept seeing Hmong patients with kidney failure. Turns out that group was in the habit of eating ibuprofin by the handful. Something that I've stopped doing.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:12 PM on April 13, 2010


Now I feel like a chump for not calling poison control when I splashed habenero (was washing hands after mincing one) into my eye a couple of nights ago. Ended up on the internet, looking through one eye, desperately searching for anything to stop the pain. Found some remedies, the pain lessened, I will be more careful.

I joked with my friends that I had maced myself.

Anyway, thanks for the link. I had never thought of calling for that sort of thing.

Carol, if you're still around- would it be appropriate to call a poison control center to ask about what to do if this happens again? The minced habenero was tasty enough that I'll be cooking with them again, and knowing myself, I'll get some in my eye eventually.
posted by Hactar at 7:27 PM on April 13, 2010


Hactar: YES absolutely call the poison center for stuff like that, we can definitely help. if anyone out there ever wonders, 'I wonder if I could call poison control for this', the answer is very likely yes. and, if we can't help you, we will refer you to someone who can.

and I just realize that I haven't even posted the number yet! the national poison center number is 1-800-222-1222. save it to your phone. call that number anywhere in the states/canada and you will get your regional poison center (kinda like 911 in that it just routes you to the closest center). it is 100% free and confidential (they'll ask your name to create a confidential medical record but you can absolutely refuse if you don't feel comfortable) and they all have interpreter services and open 24/7/365. At our center, our average time to answer the phone is under 10 seconds. I know I keep plugging the poison center but it is such a great service out there for everyone, regardless of insurance, education level, income level, language, etc, etc.
posted by Carol@ILPoisonCenter at 7:43 PM on April 13, 2010 [16 favorites]


I was a genial but self-destructive little Sebmojo and threw myself down all manner of cliffs, stuck the vacuum cleaner into the bath and so on. I mean who doesn't?

But my favourite one was when I climbed a ladder up to a cupboard (age... 3?) and drank an entire bottle of Ventolin .

It was awesome, I spent like a week in hospital with a heart monitor (my own TV! So cool!)
posted by Sebmojo at 7:01 PM on April 14, 2010


I had a pill once that I was told was "mescaline." I don't really know what was in it, but it was vaguely hallucinogenic and made me very stressed out. Not that fun, really.

Was that around '97 or so? Because that's the last time I saw something that fit that description around, and yeah they did suck.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:16 AM on April 15, 2010


Having had to hold my screaming 2-year old down so the ER nurses could try to get an IV in his tiny little veins, our family is now a lot more careful about bottles having their caps snapped back on. He was fine, though the mere mention of "needling" did result in instant compliance for a couple of years.
posted by mdoar at 3:21 PM on April 16, 2010


Was that around '97 or so? Because that's the last time I saw something that fit that description around, and yeah they did suck.

More like '92 or '93 - you couldn't pay me to take something like that now :)
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:44 PM on April 16, 2010


My favourite med school elective was Toxicology, which included working in a California Poison Control centre. They do amazing work, and with so little. Schwarzenegger tried to eliminate the entire system to save a paltry few $million (while basically offloading magnified poison costs directly to EDs). Luckily the system's closure was averted, for this year.
posted by meehawl at 4:18 PM on April 18, 2010


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