|A poison is any substance that enters the body and causes temporary or permanent harm. Some substances, such as acetaminophen or alcohol, only become harmful to the body when taken in a large quantity. Others, such as some herbicides, need only to be taken in very small amounts to be harmful.
HOW DO POISONS AFFECT THE BODY?
Different poisons have different effects. The effect is modified by the quantity and the time since exposure.
POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF POISONS
This is common response to many poisons, particularly those that have been eaten, as body tries to remove the poison from the system.
A person may be confused and slowly lapse into full unconsciousness.
Poison may eventually cause breathing to stop.
Change in heart rate
Some poisons speed up the heart rate; others slow it down. Poisons may eventually cause the heart to stop.
Erratic and confused behavior
Always suspect poisoning in these instances.
Some poisons burn the skin, some swallowed poisons burn the digestive tract, bringing the additional risk of swelling around the mouth and throat.
Some poisons will cause pain.
Liver and kidney problems
As the liver and kidneys struggle to remove poisons from the body they may become affected themselves.
KEY FIRST AID PRINCIPLES FOR DEALING WITH POISONS
- Protect yourself and bystanders from the source of the poison by making the scene safe and wearing protective clothing if necessary.
- Monitor and maintain the victim’s airway and breathing and be prepared to resuscitate if necessary.
- Seek appropriate medical help or call the Poison Control Hotline to deal with dangerous substances.
- Monitor the victim’s level of consciousness and be prepared to turn into the recovery position if necessary.
- Support the victim if he vomits and place in the recovery position until medical help arrives.
- Treat any burns caused by corrosive poisons by flooding the affected area with running water.
- Try to identify the source of poison because this will help determine appropriate medical treatment.
CLUES TO IDENTIFYING POISONS
The early identification of a poison will help medical staff to determine an appropriate course of treatment. Potential clues that you as the first person at the scene of the incident may be able to provide include:
Chemical containers: be able to describe any HAZMAT symbol or label if you can get close enough to do so without putting yourself at risk. Do not touch these yourself. Remember that many household substances are toxic.
- Medicine bottles/pill containers (do not assume that an empty bottle means that all the pills were taken).
- Samples of vomit: if the victim is sick, keep the vomit for inspection.
- Details of what happened from bystanders or from the victim.
- Identification of animal or insect: if the poisoning route was a bite, try to get a description of the creature. If it is safe to do so, take the poisonous animal or insect to hospital.