How to Treat a Poison Victim

FDWWL3XG5FRB66D.MEDIUMHelping a poisoning victim can be tricky, since there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. But in every case, it’s vital to find out what the toxin is and seek help.  This blog post includes emergency tips to help prepare for identifying and treating a poisoning victim.

If you need to evaluate a child for poisoning, or if someone refuses to answer questions about what they may have ingested, as in the case of a suicidal person, you can look for these common signs.

The victim may have burns or redness around the mouth or lips, or burns, stains and odors on their body, clothing, or other objects nearby. They may also have paint, powders, or other liquids around the face and nostrils. Likewise, a strong chemical odor, such as gasoline or paint thinner, may be on their breath. Look for any empty medication bottles or scattered pills, or spilled or empty containers for chemical, paint, or household products. The individual may show signs of nausea or begin vomiting, become drowsy or unconscious, experience difficulty breathing, or even respiratory arrest. The victim may also be agitated or restless, or seizing or twitching uncontrollably. Assume that the person is poisoned until proven otherwise, and take action on treating a poisoning victim. If the person has no symptoms, but you suspect poisoning, call your regional poison control center. Provide age, weight, and any information you may have about the poison, such as how much of it was ingested and how long since the person was first exposed to it. If possible, it will help to have the pill bottle or container on hand when you call.

Helping a poisoning victim can be tricky, since there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. But in every case, it’s vital to find out what the toxin is and seek help.

Step 1: Call your local emergency number to request help.

Step 2: If the poison is emitting fumes or there is a strong chemical odor in the room, move the person into fresh air.

Step 3: Put on gloves, if available, to prevent contamination. Check for any remaining poisonous substance in the victim’s mouth. If you find any, wipe it away. If the poison is spilled on the person’s clothing, remove the clothing.

Step 4: If the victim isn’t breathing, and you have a CPR mask or face shield, and you’re certified CPR, begin rescue breathing.

Step 5: If poison for exposed on bare skin or in the eyes, flush with lukewarm water for 20 minutes or until help arrives.

Step 6: If the toxin is a household product, check the label for advice, or contact your local poison-control hotline. Do not induce vomiting or administer a charcoal slurry unless instructed to do so.

Step 7: If the victim goes to the emergency room, take the pill bottle or package that contained what was ingested. That will help doctors start proper treatment immediately.

Source: Johnson, R. (2012). The ultimate survival manual. San Francisco, CA: Weldon Owen.