Poisons are substances that are detrimental to the human health that can cause injuries, illness and even death. Poisons tamper with your body’s mechanism by altering and affecting the chemical activities in the cells. Poisoning is mainly caused by harmful substances that are deleterious to the body by injecting, swallowing, breathing in the poison or absorbing the poison through the skin.
Thousands of deaths are caused each year due to the accidental or intentional intake of poisonous substances. Therefore, quick action must be undertaken by familiarizing yourself with the signs and symptoms of poisoning in order to suspect if the person is a victim of poisoning and calling for immediate help.
Symptoms of poisoning
Symptoms may vary according to the poison that has affected the person but having knowledge about major symptoms will help you suspect if the person is a victim of poisoning. The following are the symptoms of poisoning if a person has injected, inhaled or swallowed a poisonous substance:
- Confusion and hallucinations
- Chest pain
- Breathing difficulties
- Increased fatigue and drowsiness
- Double vision
- Abdominal pain
- Bluish lips
- Heart palpitations
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle twitching
- Odd breath odor
- Skin rash
What to do after you find out the person has been poisoned
If the person shows any of these symptoms and if you feel it is due to poisoning remain calm and check for the source of poisoning that may endanger you and the people around you. This is crucial especially if the poison is in gaseous state, for example, carbon monoxide.
1 Make sure that you and the people around you are safe from the poison before you give first aid. Move the victim to an area that is safe to keep him away from the poison.
2 If the poison is originated from a gaseous source, make sure you conduct a quick evacuation and make sure everybody, including the person(s) who has been poisoned are outside where there is fresh air.
3 Look for the source that might have poisoned the victim (if not gaseous). Familiarizing yourself with the source of poison may help in quick treatment of the poisoning:
- There are many poisons that are not meant for ingestion and even contact. Such poisons include cyanide, poisonous extract from plants, many household cleaning products e.g. bleach and paint thinners
- Many poisons are available in substances are edible like poisonous mushrooms, food that is not properly prepared, plants with excess pesticide exposure and drinking water contaminated with industrial or agricultural chemicals
- Make sure you look for tablets and drugs as well that may cause poisoning. For example, an excess of beta blockers in your system that is mainly taken to treat heart problems, high blood pressure, tremors and phobia can cause posioning. Vitamin A and D supplements, if taken excessively can cause problems in the liver and even death. Another drug called Coumadin (which is also an active ingredient in rat poisons) is used as a blood thinner to preclude blood clots causes heavy bleeding and death, if not taken in moderate amounts.
Call poison control
Once you are sure that the person’s sickness is due to poisoning, you should immediately call poison control and notify them about the age of the victim, the source of poisoning, time of poisoning and your address. Listen carefully to the instructions and follow them accordingly.
Do not wait till help shows up; take the following steps till they arrive:
- If you have not identified the source of poisoning due to the need to call for immediate help, identify it after calling help.
- Check for further signs that might have taken place like burns around the mouth, vomiting and other observable signs
- If poison is swallowed, induce vomiting
- In case of a seizure, secure the person to prevent self inflection and injury
- If vomit touches the skin, wash it thoroughly
- Do not induce vomiting if not advised by a medical supervisor or doctor. Do not make the victim take medicines.
- Keep all substances that may cause harm to a person’s health out of child’s reach
- Label all poisonous substances in the house
- Store drugs, detergents, paints, paint thinners and pesticides carefully
- Be careful while eating berries, mushrooms or roots