Poisoning: Proper care for different types of poisoning

Almost every year, many individuals from all age groups require medical care for poisoning due to products that are found around the house. These potentially poisonous substances include cleaning products, medications, insecticides, swimming pool products, radiator coolants, herbicides, cosmetics and petrol.

Most victims of unintentional poisoning are children. It is important to note that children 1-3 years old face the highest risk. Due to the inquisitive and mobile nature of toddlers and the tendency to place objects in the mouths, toddlers are the usual victims of poisoning. The commonly involved product is paracetamol which is present in almost all households.

The indications and treatment for poisoning usually depends on the poison that was ingested, the amount and how it entered the body. It is vital to call for poison control even if there are no evident indications of discomfort or poisoning when an individual:

  • Ingests or inhales a suspected or known poison

    Transfer the individual to an area where he/she can breathe in fresh air without putting yourself at risk.

  • Stung or bitten by spiders, insects, reptiles or marine animals
  • Was exposed to poison in the eyes or on the skin

What should I do?

If the individual collapsed or ceases to breath, do not postpone. Call for emergency assistance right away. It is vital to call for poison control if an adult or child came in contact with a poison.

  • Individual is unconscious but still breathing

Call for emergency assistance right away and place the individual in the recovery position.

  • Individual is unconscious but not breathing normally

Call for emergency assistance and start cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

First aid for poisoning

  • Ingestion of poisons

If the individual is still alert, do not induce vomiting. The first step is to rinse the mouth of the individual. If possible, keep the product or medication on hand.

  • Skin contact

Carefully eliminate any leftover contaminant on the skin and clothing and cleanse the exposed body parts using large amounts of water in room temperature.

  • Eye exposure

Rinse out the eyes in a steady gently stream of water from a glass or cup for 10-15 minutes. You have to allow the stream of water to flow from the inner corner of the eye across to the outer corner. In addition, do not apply any eye drops on the exposed eye.

Inhalation of poisons

Transfer the individual to an area where he/she can breathe in fresh air without putting yourself at risk. Slacken any constricted or tight clothing at the neck area.

If indoors, open the windows and doors. Instruct the individual not to inhale the fumes. Do not attempt to rescue an unconscious individual in which a highly toxic or unknown gas is involved without a breathing apparatus on hand since you might also end up as a victim as well.

Insect bites and stings

Severe allergic reactions can occur from stings of bees, ants and wasps. Symptoms such as swelling of the lips, face and tongue, generalized rash or breathing difficulty can be potentially life-threatening and require immediate medical attention.


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