Poisoning is injury or death due to swallowing, inhaling, touching or injecting various drugs, chemicals, venoms or gases. Many substances — such as drugs and carbon monoxide — are poisonous only in higher concentrations or dosages. And others — such as cleaners — are dangerous only if ingested. Children are particularly sensitive to even small amounts of certain drugs and chemicals.
How you treat someone who may have been poisoned depends on:
- The person’s symptoms
- The person’s age
- Whether you know the type and amount of the substance that caused poisoning
When to suspect poisoning
Poisoning signs and symptoms can mimic other conditions, such as seizure, alcohol intoxication, stroke and insulin reaction. Signs and symptoms of poisoning may include:
- Burns or redness around the mouth and lips
- Breath that smells like chemicals, such as gasoline or paint thinner
- Difficulty breathing
- Confusion or other altered mental status
If you suspect poisoning, be alert for clues such as empty pill bottles or packages, scattered pills, and burns, stains and odors on the person or nearby objects. With a child, consider the possibility that he or she may have applied medicated patches or swallowed a button battery.
When to call for help
Call 999 / 112 emergency number immediately if the person is:
- Drowsy or unconscious
- Having difficulty breathing or has stopped breathing
- Uncontrollably restless or agitated
- Having seizures
- Known to have taken medications, or any other substance, intentionally or accidentally overdosed (in these situations the poisoning typically involves larger amounts, often along with alcohol).
MCP First Aid Training provides a comprehensive range of training courses suitable for all.