Medical Emergencies Publication Project By: Casey Moore

Description of Poisoning

A poison is any substance that is lethal or harmful to any living organism. The American Association of Poison Control Centers report 10,830 calls to Poison Centers each day. Poisons can enter the body in 4 different ways. These different ways include inhaled poisons, absorbed poisons, ingested poisons, and injected poisons.

Symptoms and signs of Poisoning

The symptoms of poisoning partly depend on the way it entered the body. Common symptoms include vomiting, difficultly breathing, abdominal pain, nausea, weakness, headaches, confusion, watering of the eyes, change in heart rate, and impaired consciousness. The victim may also complain of rashes, swelling, itching and redness of the skin, if the exposure has been to the skin.

Signs of poisoning are empty containers of chemicals or medicines near the poisoned person and a strange smell. This could include the smell of bleach or kerosene. If you think the person has been poisoned, gather possible clues by looking around where he or she became ill and ask questions. Collect evidence that might give Poison control dispatchers or EMS information. If you are told to transport the victim, bring the containers with you to show the doctor. Knowing what has entered the body will help the medical staff to know how to give care.

First Aid Steps

Take the following steps to care or a possible poisoning emergency:

  • Check to see if the scene is safe to enter
  • Check for breathing and consciousness
  • Care for life-threatening conditions
  • Ask questions if patient is conscious to collect evidence
  • Call the National Poison Control Center Hotline @ 1-800-222-1222
  • Follow directions given by the Poison Control dispatcher
  • Unless instructed by EMS or the Poison Control dispatcher, do not give the victim anything to eat or drink.
  • Monitor ABC's and continue to care for life threatening conditions

Prevention Tips

Many substances found in or around your house is poisonous. Most child poisoning take place when a parent or guardian is watching a child.

Follow the following guidelines to guard against poisoning emergencies in children:

  • Keep children out of your work area when you are using potentially harmful substances.
  • Always supervise children closely, especially in areas where poisons are commonly stored. For example, kitchens, bathrooms, and garages.
  • Read all labels of products you use in your home. Look for these words on bottles and packages: "Caution," "Warning," "Poison," "Danger," or "Keep Out of Reach of Children."
  • Consider all household or drugstore products to be potentially harmful.
  • Be careful when using and storing household products with fruit shown on the labels. Children may think that they are okay to drink.