Accidental poisoning is an uncommon incident, but it is a serious concern that calls for immediate first-aid action, and in certain cases, urgent medical treatment. A private ambulance service may be required to bring an individual suspected of poisoning to the closest medical facility.
Poisoning can occur in a lot of ways. There are a lot of sources and factors that can cause the poisoning of an adult or a child. This guide will talk about the causes and symptoms of poisoning, what to do in the event of poisoning, when is poisoning an emergency case, plus prevention tips.
What is Poisoning?
Poisoning is any incident where a person has swallowed, inhaled, injected, or absorbed through the skin a substance or chemical that is harmful to the body.
Poisoning takes place when large amounts of the substance or chemical have been taken. However, a small amount of the substance can still induce poisoning, depending on the toxicity levels of the substance.
What causes Poisoning?
Poisoning can be caused by a wide range of sources and substances. These sources may include anything from medications, drugs, chemicals, food, animal venom, plants, and others.
- Drugs and other medications
Beta-blockers when taken in excess, Warfarin (Coumadin) which is a type of blood thinner, vitamins A and D
- Household products and personal care items
Cleaners, detergent, furniture polish, nail polish remover, pesticides, paint thinner, gasoline
From snakes, spiders, certain frogs, scorpions, and some types of fishes
Carbon monoxide, chlorine
- Foods and drinks
Drinking water that has been contaminated with agricultural or industrial chemicals, spoiled food or food that has not been properly prepared or cooked, excessive alcohol consumption
- Other naturally-occurring metals
Arsenic, lead, mercury
- Plants and fungi
Poison ivy, certain berries, and certain mushrooms
Symptoms of Poisoning
An individual can be suspected of suffering from poisoning through a set of symptoms. These symptoms may include:
- Burns or redness around the lips and mouth
- Breath smells of chemicals
- Nausea and vomiting
- Trouble breathing
- An increased or slowed down heart rate
- Drooling or foaming of the mouth
- Drowsiness or lightheadedness
- Dilated or constricted pupils
- A confused state
With the onset of these symptoms, it is important to understand what you can do to save the person from imminent danger.
Effects of Poisoning
If not given immediate and proper first-aid response or medical treatment, an individual who has been poisoned may suffer from long-term effects of poisoning. These effects may include short-term illnesses, brain damage, coma, and death.
Treatment for Poisoning
Treatment for poisoning varies depending on several factors. These factors may include:
- The symptoms that the person is manifesting
- The age and weight of the person
- The knowledge of what type and how much of the substance that caused the poisoning has been consumed by the person
- Allergies of the person
Apart from the symptoms, survey the scene so that you may make sense of the situation. Look for clues like empty pill bottles or scattered pills, stains, a certain odor, and others. If a child has been poisoned, take into consideration that they may have swallowed something and act quickly on it.
Poisoning is a medical emergency and should be given urgent medical attention, so it is important to quickly reach out to the local emergency services.
First-Aid Treatment for Poisoning
While waiting for emergency help to arrive at the scene, you can do these steps to quickly get a person’s life out of danger.
- If the person has swallowed the poison, try to remove anything that remains inside the person’s mouth. In any case, if the poison is a household cleaner or other chemicals, read the label on the container and follow the instructions for accidental poisoning.
- If the poison has been absorbed by the skin, get rid of any contaminated clothing. Make sure to wear gloves in doing so. For at least 15 to 20 minutes, rinse the skin through running water, like in a shower or with a hose.
- If the poison has contaminated the eyes, gently flush it out with cool or lukewarm water. Do this for 20 minutes or until the help comes.
- In case of vomiting, make sure to turn the person to their side. Doing so prevents them from choking.
- If the person is unresponsive, unconscious, and not breathing, begin administering CPR.
Don’t forget to collect some of the clues that you have found at the scene where the person has been poisoned. These clues may include anything from pill bottles, and packages or labels. Also, make sure to pass on any information you have so far about the poisoning to the medical professional upon turnover of the patient.
Prevention for Poisoning
At home or at the workplace, poisoning can be largely prevented by taking a lot of extra measures, especially when it comes to the storage of chemicals and other substances that may cause poisoning.
Here are some preventive measures you can take to ensure the safety of your family when it comes to accidental poisoning.
- Make sure to store all household substances, chemicals, and medications in a secure location that is out of reach of children. An ideal storage location is a high cabinet that is locked. You can establish no-children zones inside the house so that they don’t go playing around these areas even without your supervision. For added protection, you can put safety locks in these cabinets.
- Make it a point to use gloves and other protective clothing if you are going to work with cleaners and other toxic chemicals.
- Avoid the use of chemicals like paint thinners, pesticides, and other chemicals inside the house or in any closed space. Ideally, these chemicals should be used in a location where there is proper ventilation.
- Refrain from mixing chemicals, as doing so could lead to a deadly combination. Good examples are bleach and ammonia, which form a lethal gas when mixed.
- As much as possible, keep medicines and other chemicals in their original packaging and containers so that the labels are retained.
- Make sure that everything inside your medicine cabinet is properly labeled.
- Throw away expired medicines and other household products. However, ensure that you dispose of them properly, following FDA’s guidelines on doing so.
- Always follow the instructions indicated on the product label.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the most common cause of poisoning?
Carbon monoxide ranks first as the most common cause of poisoning in the US. This is followed by household cleaning products, personal care items, and pesticides.
What does poison do to the body?
Poison can affect the body in a lot of ways. The effects can range from minor discomfort to long-term organ damage.
What are the 4 ways that poison can enter the body?
Poison can enter the body in 4 ways: through swallowing, inhalation, injection, and absorption through the skin.