First Aid for Poisoning

According to the estimates of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unintentional poisoning caused around 23,600 poisoning deaths in the United States in 2005 and around 5,800 people die of intentional poisoning. Here are the things that will guide you in case someone suffers from poisoning:

Look for signs of poisoning

There are many conditions that mimic the signs and symptoms of poisoning, such as alcohol intoxication, seizures, insulin reaction, and stroke. So you must look for the following signs if you suspect food poisoning: breath that smells of chemicals, redness or burns around the lips and mouth, scattered pills or empty medication bottles.

Observe symptoms of poisoning

Call local emergency number or call 911 immediately if the victim is vomiting, experiences difficulty in breathing or has stopped breathing, is drowsy or unconscious, confused, having seizures, agitated, or uncontrollably restless. If the victim appears stable and shows no symptoms, but you think he or she is poisoned, contact the poison control center at 800-222-1222. You will be asked about the symptoms and, if at all possible, what the victim ingested, when, and how much.

What to do when waiting for medical professionals to arrive

If the victim has inhaled poisonous fumes like carbon monoxide, get some fresh air for him or her to breathe. If the victim swallowed the poison, you should remove anything remaining in his or her mouth. If the poison made contact with the person’s skin or eyes, flush them with lukewarm or cool water for about 20 minutes or until medical help arrives.

If the person ingested a household chemical, read the label carefully and follow the instructions for poisoning. Call the poison control center and follow their treatment directions. Take the poison container (or any pill bottles) with you to the hospital.

What you should not do

Do not try to induce vomiting. Administering ipecac syrup is not advisable. In fact, in 2003, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) called for the discarding of ipecac in the home. There is no good evidence to support the effectiveness of this syrup. The AAP also said that ipecac syrup is actually more harmful than helpful.


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