Poison :

We live in a world where we are surrounded by poisons- we can inhale them, swallow or ingest them, absorb them through our skin, or have them injected into our bodies. Each year about 2.5 million poisonings are reported to poison control centers and approximately 1,000 of them become fatal. Knowing the signs and symptoms or poisonings, being aware of the poisons in your home, and keeping the number of the poison control center handy. Preventing the poisoning to begin with is the best first aid you can possibly give. Here are some good tips to remember about poisons.

Just because a package doesn’t have a warning label, you shouldn’t assume that it’s not a poison or that it’s safe.

Symptoms of poisoning can happen instantly or take hours, days, months or even years to become apparent. So if you suspect poisoning for any reason, get help. As the cliche goes- it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Suspect a poisoning if someone suddenly appears to take ill, or if a person is found unconscious or ‘ill’ near a fire, furnace, a car, or in an area that is very badly ventilated

** Important Poison Control Center Update!! **

* The Poison C. C. is no longer recommending the use of ipecac syrup *


Ipecac works systemically- it must be absorbed into the blood stream, therefore it does not act instantly. It may also cause aspiration, or seizures ((LINK)). Also, because the Syrup causes you to throw up you run the risk of throwing up things you did not want to, for example other medications the person may be taking for separate problems/conditions.

Common poisons include:

Medications can be poisonous! One of the reasons you’re never supposed to take somebody else’s medication because their dosage may not be right for you and can cause serious problems. Medicine also need to be stored in safe places so that children cannot access them.

  • Household cleaning products and detergents.
  • Plant/garden products (weed killer, some fertilizers).
  • Insecticides, rodent and snail poisons.
  • Paints, paint thinners, and lead paint chips (swallowing paint, or inhaling fumes).
  • Chemicals found at ones job, or in ones home for use in things like pools (chlorine, rat poison, kerosene etc).
  • Illegal drugs.
  • Poisonous plants such as poison ivy- which will cause a reaction, and others which will be toxic if eaten such as some varieties of mushroom or berries.
  • Animals with venomous stings, poisonous sprays, bites etc.
  • Food that has gone bad, or been cooked incorrectly.
  • Carbon Monoxide gas fumes, or other noxious fumes such as those expelled by cars, chemical reactions, or in a fire.
  • Some cosmetics can be poisonous if used incorrectly (swallowed /misted in eyes perfumes or aftershaves)


Symptoms of poisoning again may appear instantaneously or the poisoning may be cumulative and symptoms may take years to become apparent. Below is a list of some symptoms that are along the “occur soon after the poisoning” variety.

  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cough
  • Diarrhea
  • Confusion
  • Bluish lips (cyanosis)
  • Dizziness
  • Double vision
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Drowsiness
  • Unconsciousness
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Seizures
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Burns around lips or mouth
  • Burning pain in throat or mouth
  • Skin rashes or burns
  • Stupor
  • Irritability
  • Muscle twitching
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Fever
  • Pale, cool or clammy skin
  • Heart palpitations (a rapid, weak or erratic pulse)
  • Unusual breath odor
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Smell of fumes or odors


A brief list of Do Nots’

  • Do Not give a poison victim (conscious or not) anything by mouth unless instructed to do so by the poison control center.
  • Do Not induce vomiting unless instructed by the PCC. If the poison burned on the way down it could also burn on the way up.
  • Do Not try to neutralize the poison with anything you have heard will help, such as lemon juice or vinegar, unless you are instructed to- they could aggravate the situation further.
  • Do not wait for symptoms to develop if you suspect a poisoning. Get help immediately, call your local PCC or if the victim is unconscious or the injury seems serious 911 before the PCC.
  • Do Not go by the instructions on a label when it comes to treating poison, as many labels have out of date instructions.

First aid for poisoning by swallowing or ingesting:

  • If you suspect or know that someone has been poisoned, call the Poison control center immediately. Within the USA you can call 1800-222-1222 to automatically be connected with the PCC in your state. National Poisons Information Centre (NPIC) for india and Toll Free No. - 1800 116 117
  • However, if the person who has been poisoned has stopped breathing, requires EAR (pulse) CPR (no pulse) or become unconscious, call 911 (or your local emergency service) before calling the PCC.
  • Check and monitor the victim’s airway, breathing and circulation. If the victim becomes unconscious or if necessary for other reasons, begin CPR. If there is something lodged in the persons throat Do NOT give CPR until the object has been removed.
  • Try to make sure that the victim has indeed been poisoned, this may be difficult as it is sometimes difficult to tell, especially if the victim in unconscious or very young. Some signs include chemical-smelling breath, burns around the mouth, difficulty breathing, vomiting, or unusual odors on the victim. If possible, identify the poison.
  • Only induce vomiting if the poison control center tells you to do so.
  • If the victim vomits, protect the airway. If you must clear the victim’s airway, wrap a cloth around your fingers before cleaning out his or her mouth and throat to protect yourself from any poison that may have been left in the mouth or throat. If the victim has vomited a plant part, save the vomit, as it may allow identification by an expert who can then determine an antidote.

If the victim starts having seizures, click here for the first aid

  • Reassure the victim and keep him or her comfortable. Position the victim on their left side while getting or awaiting medical help.
  • Call the Poison Center for any poison taken by mouth, whether it was swallowed or not. Never induce vomiting unless instructed to do so by the poison center or your doctor. You may be instructed to give the victim sips of water or milk. CAUTION: Some out-of date first-aid and health information charts may contain incorrect treatment information. DO NOT give raw eggs, salt, vinegar or citrus fruit juices to induce vomiting or to neutralize the poison. These treatments are not only ineffective, but may be extremely dangerous.
  • If possible, have the poisonous substance or its container within reach while you are speaking with the Poison Center.
  • If you are instructed to go to a hospital emergency department, take the substance or its container with you.

First aid for poisoning by inhalation.

Unless it is necessary to perform CPR first, call the Poison Control Center, or for very serious reactions call 911, and then the PCC.

Take several deep breaths of fresh air, then hold your breath as you go in. If it is safe to do so, rescue the victim from the danger of the gas, fumes, or smoke. Hold a wet cloth over your nose and mouth. Open windows and doors to remove the fumes. Understand that in very serious situations- such as a fire- you may not be able to rescue the victim, and the safer choice would be waiting for help to arrive then directing them as best you can.

  • Avoid lighting a match as some gases may ignite.
  • Once the victim has been removed from danger, check his or her airway, breathing, and circulation. If necessary, perform EAR (rescue breathing) and CPR.
  • As necessary, perform first aid for skin burns, eye injuries, or seizures.
  • If the victim vomits, protect his or her airway.
  • Even if the victim seems perfectly fine, get medical help. Sometimes poison symptoms take a while to surface.
  • DO NOT use activated charcoal in the first aid treatment for poisoning unless advised by the Poisons Control Center.
  • Poison on the Skin.
  • Remove any contaminated clothing, taking care to avoid contact with the chemical.
  • Flush the skin with cool - lukewarm running water for 20 minutes.
  • Call the PCC to find out if any additional aid needs to be given. If the reactions to the poison seem serious, or from a chemical you are unfamiliar with call 911 or go to the ER.
  • If possible, have the poisonous substance or its container within reach while you are speaking with the Poison Center.
  • If you are instructed to go to a hospital emergency department, take the substance or its container with you.

Poison in the Eye:

  • Remove contact lenses if worn.
  • The eyes must be irrigated for a full 15/20 minutes with cool-lukewarm water.
  • Eyes do not have to be held open continuously during the flushing treatment; opening and closing the eyes repeatedly during irrigation helps carry the water to all parts of the eye.
  • Call the PCC to find out if any additional aid needs to be given. If the reactions to the poison seem serious, or from a chemical you are unfamiliar with call 911 or go to the ER.
  • If possible, have the poisonous substance or its container within reach while you are speaking with the Poison Center.
  • If you are instructed to go to a hospital emergency department, take the substance or its container with you.


  • Be aware of poisons in and around your home. Take steps to protect young children from toxic substances. Store all medicines, cleaners, cosmetics, and household chemicals out of reach of children, or in cabinets with childproof latches.
  • Be familiar with plants in your home, yard, and vicinity. Keep your children informed, too. Remove any noxious plants. Never eat wild plants, mushrooms, roots, or berries unless you know what you’re doing.
  • Teach children about the dangers of substances that contain poison. Label all poisons.
  • Don’t store household chemicals in food containers, even if they are labeled. Most non-food substances are poisonous if taken in large doses.
  • If you are concerned that industrial poisons might be polluting nearby land or water, report your concerns to the local health department or the state or federal Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Store medicines, chemicals and household products safely out of reach and out of sight of children, up high (at least 4 ½ ft) in a locked or child resistant cupboard.
  • Do not take other people’s medicines.
  • Separate medicines from household products.
  • Use medicines and chemicals safely. Be sure that all products are properly labeled and in their original containers.
  • Clean out your medicine cupboard periodically. Take out-of-date medicines to a pharmacy for disposal.
  • Children tend to mimic adults, so avoid taking medicines in their presence.
  • Do not refer to medicines as being sweet, or tasting like candy,
  • Use personal protection equipment when spraying or painting. Ensure there is adequate ventilation, with circulating air.
  • Remove any contaminated clothing immediately.
  • Keep everything in original containers never in cups or soft drink bottles.
  • Obtain a history- look for empty bottles, containers, and sometimes suicide notes. If possible, ascertain what poison or medicine has been taken, including how much and when.
  • The Poison Center recommends that all homes with young children should have a first-aid kit that contains activated charcoal. Never use this substance without first calling the poison center or your doctor.
  • Remember, that the PCC isn’t just for emergencies- it’s a great source of information and the people who work there are trained to answer your questions about poisons and how to prevent and recognize problems before they start.