Coping with Poisoning
Most cases involve children, but most deaths occur among adults
Ninety percent of all poisonings happen in the home. Most cases involve young children swallowing house-hold or garden products or medications that are inappropriate. But fatalities involve adults and are frequently suicides or drug-related. Here are the American Red Cross’s suggestions as to what to do in most cases:
How can I tell if someone’s been poisoned?
The physical clues to poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, pain in the chest or abdomen, difficulty breathing, sweating, seizures, and shifts in consciousness. When the victim is conscious and old enough to communicate, ask him or her what happened. When this is not possible, carefully inspect the scene for clues. Do you see any open or overturend containers, any plants that don’t look right, or any medicine cabinet that is opened? Are there any flames, smoke or unusual smells?
What if I strongly suspect a poisoning?
Move the victim away from the poison source if necessary. Check his or her level of consciousness, breathing condition, and pulse. Treat any life-threatening factors. Then call a poison control center or emergency hotline with any information on what the victim may have been exposed to or swallowed.
What if the poison has been swallowed?
Never have a victim eat or drink unless medical professionals advise it. If you can’t locate the poison source and the victim throws up, save some of the vomit for the hospital to test.
If you do know the poison, contact a poison control over center for precise instructions or administering an antidote. If vomiting must be induced, using syrup of ipecac is generally recommended. For someone over 12 years of age, the normal dosage is two tablespoons of syrup, followed by two glasses of water. For children under 12, the dosage normally is one tablespoon followed by two glasses of water. The intended result should com within 20 minutes.
When is inducing vomiting a bad idea?
Never induce vomiting when the victim has taken an acid or alkali, which can burn the esophagus, throat, and mouth tissues. The same is true for petroleum products such as gasoline or kerosene.
What is the role of activated charcoal in treating poisoning?
A solution made from activated charcoal is often used to help neutralize poison that remains in the stomach even after vomiting. The charcoal comes in both liquid and powder forms and is sold in pharmacies over the counter. The powder form needs mixing with water so that it becomes milk shake-like in its consistency. Young children have a hard time swallowing the mixture and often need it dispenses to them at a hospital.
How should toxic fumes be handled?
When the victim’s skin is pale or bluish, it’s a tip-off that toxic fumes may have been inhaled. The most common toxic fumes are carbon monoxide from car exhaust, carbon dioxide from wells or sewers, and chlorine from swimming pools. Glues, cleaning solvents, and paints also give off fumes, as do drugs such as crack cocaine. The most important thing you can do for a toxic fume victim is to get the person to fresh air as soon as possible. If the victim has lost consciousness, start rescue breathing.
How should chemicals on skin be handled?
Flush the area in question with continuously running water and call the rescue service. When the chemical is dry and there’s no running water, brush off the chemical and see a doctor as soon as possible.