The most common poisons in children
These are especially hazardous household items. Buy small quantities. Discard unneeded extras. Make sure they are always out of a child’s reach.
Acute poisoning is exposure to a poison on one occasion or during a short period of time. Symptoms develop in close relation to the exposure. Absorption of a poison is necessary for systemic poisoning. In contrast, substances that destroy tissue but do not absorb, such as lye, are classified as corrosives rather than poisons. Furthermore, many common household medications are not labeled with skull and crossbones, although they can cause severe illness or even death. In the medical sense, poisoning can be caused by less dangerous substances than those legally classified as a poison.
Chronic poisoning is long-term repeated or continuous exposure to a poison where symptoms do not occur immediately or after each exposure. The patient gradually becomes ill, or becomes ill after a long latent period. Chronic poisoning most commonly occurs following exposure to poisons that bioaccumulate, or are biomagnified, such as mercury, gadolinium, and lead.
Contact or absorption of poisons can cause rapid death or impairment. Agents that act on the nervous system can paralyze in seconds or less, and include both biologically derived neurotoxins and so-called nerve gases, which may be synthesized for warfare or industry.
Inhaled or ingested cyanide, used as a method of execution in gas chambers, almost instantly starves the body of energy by inhibiting the enzymes in mitochondria that make ATP. Intravenous injection of an unnaturally high concentration of potassium chloride, such as in the execution of prisoners in parts of the United States, quickly stops the heart by eliminating the cell potential necessary for muscle contraction.
Most biocides, including pesticides, are created to act as poisons to target organisms, although acute or less observable chronic poisoning can also occur in non-target organisms (secondary poisoning), including the humans who apply the biocides and other beneficial organisms. For example, the herbicide 2,4-D imitates the action of a plant hormone, which makes its lethal toxicity specific to plants. Indeed, 2,4-D is not a poison, but classified as “harmful” (EU).
Many substances regarded as poisons are toxic only indirectly, by toxication. An example is “wood alcohol” or methanol, which is not poisonous itself, but is chemically converted to toxic formaldehydeand formic acid in the liver. Many drug molecules are made toxic in the liver, and the genetic variability of certain liver enzymes makes the toxicity of many compounds differ between individuals.
Toxicology is the study of the symptoms, mechanisms, treatment and diagnosis of biological poisoning.
Exposure to radioactive substances can produce radiation poisoning, an unrelated phenomenon.
A poison is any substance that is harmful to your body. You might swallow it, inhale it, inject it, or absorb it through your skin. Any substance can be poisonous if too much is taken. Poisons can include
The effects of poisoning range from short-term illness to brain damage, coma, and death. To prevent poisoning it is important to use and store products exactly as their labels say. Keep dangerous products where children can’t get to them. Treatment for poisoning depends on the type of poison. If you suspect someone has been poisoned, call your local poison control center right away.Alcohol poisoning is a serious — and sometimes deadly — consequence of drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time. Drinking too much too quickly can affect your breathing, heart rate, body temperature and gag reflex and potentially lead to coma and death.
Alcohol poisoning can also occur when adults or children accidentally or intentionally drink household products that contain alcohol.
A person with alcohol poisoning needs immediate medical attention. If you suspect someone has alcohol poisoning, call for emergency medical help right away.
Alcohol poisoning signs and symptoms include:
It’s not necessary to have all these signs and symptoms before you seek help. A person who is unconscious or can’t be awakened is at risk of dying.
If you suspect that someone has alcohol poisoning — even if you don’t see the classic signs and symptoms — seek immediate medical care.
If you’re with someone who has been drinking a lot of alcohol and you see any of the signs or symptoms above, here’s what to do:
It can be difficult to decide if you think someone is drunk enough to warrant medical intervention, but it’s best to err on the side of caution. You may worry about the consequences for yourself or your friend or loved one, particularly if you’re underage. But the consequences of not getting the right help in time can be far more serious.
Alcohol in the form of ethanol (ethyl alcohol) is found in alcoholic beverages, mouthwash, cooking extracts, some medications and certain household products. Ethyl alcohol poisoning generally results from drinking too many alcoholic beverages, especially in a short period of time.
Other forms of alcohol — including isopropyl alcohol (found in rubbing alcohol, lotions and some cleaning products) and methanol or ethylene glycol (a common ingredient in antifreeze, paints and solvents) — can cause another type of toxic poisoning that requires emergency treatment.
A major cause of alcohol poisoning is binge drinking — a pattern of heavy drinking when a male rapidly consumes five or more alcoholic drinks within two hours, or a female downs at least four drinks within two hours. An alcohol binge can occur over hours or last up to several days.
You can consume a fatal dose before you pass out. Even when you’re unconscious or you’ve stopped drinking, alcohol continues to be released from your stomach and intestines into your bloodstream, and the level of alcohol in your body continues to rise.
Poisoning is caused by exposure to a harmful substance. This can be due to swallowing, injecting, breathing in, or other means. Most poisonings occur by accident.
Immediate first aid is very important in a poisoning emergency. The first aid you give before getting medical help can save a person’s life.
This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure.
In the United States, call 1-800-222-1222 to speak with a local poison control center. This hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.
Millions of poisonings are reported to United States poison control centers every year. Many result in death.
It is important to note that just because a package does not have a warning label does not mean a substance is safe. You should consider poisoning if someone suddenly becomes sick for no apparent reason. Poisoning should also be considered if the person is found near a furnace, car, fire, or in an area that is not well ventilated.
Symptoms of poisoning may take time to develop. However, if you think someone has been poisoned, DO NOT wait for symptoms to develop. Get medical help right away.
Items that can cause poisoning include:
Symptoms vary according to the poison, but may include:
Seek immediate medical help.
For poisoning by swallowing:
Check and monitor the person’s airway, breathing, and pulse. If necessary, begin rescue breathing and CPR.
For inhalation poisoning:
Call for emergency help. Never attempt to rescue a person without notifying others first.
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 poisonous plants. Never eat wild plants, mushrooms, roots, or berries unless you very familiar with them.
Teach children about the dangers of substances that contain poison. Label all poisons.
DO NOT store household chemicals in food containers, even if they are labeled. Most nonfood 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.A poison is any substance that is harmful to your body. You might swallow it, inhale it, inject it, or absorb it through your skin. Any substance can be poisonous if too much is taken. Poisons can include
The effects of poisoning range from short-term illness to brain damage, coma, and death. To prevent poisoning it is important to use and store products exactly as their labels say. Keep dangerous products where children can’t get to them. Treatment for poisoning depends on the type of poison. If you suspect someone has been poisoned, call your local poison control center right away.
Possible poisonous substances include prescription and over-the-counter drugs, illicit drugs, gases, chemicals, vitamins, food, mushrooms, plants, and animal venom.
Some poisons cause no damage, whereas others can cause severe damage or death.
The diagnosis is based on symptoms, on information gleaned from the poisoned person and bystanders, and sometimes on blood and urine tests.
Drugs should always be kept in original child-proof containers and kept out of the reach of children.
Treatment consists of supporting the person, preventing additional absorption of the poison, and sometimes increasing elimination of the poison.
Poisoning is the most common cause of nonfatal accidents in the home. More than 2 million people suffer some type of poisoning each year in the United States. Drugs—prescription, over-the-counter, and illicit—are a common source of serious poisonings and poisoning-related deaths. Other common poisons include gases, household products, agricultural products, plants, industrial chemicals, vitamins, animal venom, and foods (particularly certain species of mushrooms and fish). However, almost any substance ingested in sufficiently large quantities can be toxic.
Young children, because of curiosity and a tendency to explore, are particularly vulnerable to accidental poisoning in the home, as are older people, often due to confusion about their drugs. Also vulnerable to accidental poisoning are hospitalized people (by drug errors) and industrial workers (by exposure to toxic chemicals). Poisoning may also be a deliberate attempt to commit murder or suicide. Most adults who attempt suicide by poisoning take more than one drug and also consume alcohol.
The damage caused by poisoning depends on the poison, the amount taken, and the age and underlying health of the person who takes it. Some poisons are not very potent and cause problems only with prolonged exposure or repeated ingestion of large amounts. Other poisons are so potent that just a drop on the skin can cause severe damage.Being poisoned can be life-threatening. If someone has swallowed a poisonous substance, don’t try to treat them yourself – seek medical help immediately.
If they’re showing signs of being seriously ill, dial 999 to request an ambulance or take them to your local A&E department.
Symptoms associated with serious poisoning include:
Call NHS 111 for advice if a person who’s been poisoned doesn’t appear to be seriously ill.
If you think someone has been severely poisoned and they’re still conscious, ask them to sit still and stay with them while you wait for medical help to arrive.
If they’ve been poisoned by swallowing something, try to get them to spit out anything that is remaining in their mouth.
If a harmful substance has splashed onto their skin or clothes, remove any contaminated items and wash the affected area thoroughly with warm or cool water. Be careful not to contaminate yourself in the process.
If you think someone has swallowed poison and they appear to be unconscious, try to wake them and encourage them to spit out anything left in their mouth. Don’t put your hand into their mouth and don’t try to make them sick.
While you’re waiting for medical help to arrive, lie the person on their side with a cushion behind their back and their upper leg pulled slightly forward, so they don’t fall on their face or roll backwards. This is known as the recovery position.
Wipe any vomit away from their mouth and keep their head pointing down, to allow any vomit to escape without them breathing it in or swallowing it. Don’t give them anything to eat or drink.
If the person isn’t breathing or their heart has stopped, begincardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if you know how to.
If you think someone has inhaled poisonous fumes, assess the situation first and don’t put yourself in danger.
If the person is conscious, encourage them to make their way out of the contaminated area, if at all possible. Once they’re out into fresh air, check to see if they’re OK and call 999 if they have signs of serious poisoning (see above).
Dial 999 to request an ambulance if the person is unconscious or unable to get out of the affected area. Don’t enter any enclosed areas to remove the person yourself because toxic gases and fumes can be very dangerous if inhaled.
Medical staff will need to take a detailed history to effectively treat a person who’s been poisoned. When the paramedics arrive or when you arrive at A&E, give them as much information as you can, including:
Give details of any symptoms the person has had, such as whether they’ve been sick.
Medical staff may also want to know:
The container the substance came in will help give medical staff a clear idea of what it is. If you don’t know what caused the poisoning, blood testsmay be needed to identify the cause.
Some people who have swallowed a poisonous substance or overdosed on medication will be admitted to hospital for examination and treatment.
Possible treatments that can be used to treat poisoning include:
Investigations may include blood tests and an electrocardiogram (ECG).
A blood test can be used to check the levels of chemicals and glucose in the blood. They may be used to perform a toxicology screen (tests to find out how many drugs or medication a person has taken), and a liver function test, which indicates how damaged the liver is.
An ECG is an electrical recording of the heart to check that it’s functioning properly.
For more information about treating specific types of poisoning see: