Toxic Trouble

Here’s how to get help for someone who has ingested a poisonous substance.

Treat all cases of poisoning seriously, and the affected person should be taken to the Accidents & Emergency Department as soon as possible. However, some cases require immediate attention before calling for help.

To determine the severity of the poisoning (where the victim has either ingested or inhaled it), look out for the following symptoms:


Mild poisoning Headache, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, nausea and diarrhoea, soreness in joints, skin or eye irritation.

Severe poisoning Stomach cramps, vomiting, excessive perspiration, trembling, intense thirst, redness around the mouth and lips, burns, stains and odours on the clothes, difficulty breathing, drowsiness and confusion.


Do it yourself: Immediate action

If you’re waiting for help to arrive, the following treatments may be administered:


Poison in the eye

Flush the eye with lukewarm water for about 15 minutes. Blink the eye as much as possible while you flush. Avoid forcing the eyelid open and don’t rub your eyes.


Poison on the skin

Remove the contaminant (and clothing) from the skin as soon as possible. Then wash the area with soap thoroughly. For chemical burns, wash the affected area with water, remove contaminated clothing and cover the area with a soft, clean cloth. Avoid applying ointments.


Inhaled poisoning

Poison that is breathed in is very serious because of the damage that it can cause to the lungs and parts of the victims’s upper respiratory tract. Get the person away from the affected area as soon as possible, loosen the victim’s clothing and bring him to an area that’s well ventilated. Should the victim stop breathing, perform CPR until he is revived or help arrives.


Swallowed poisoning

Remove the poison (tablets, liquids and so forth) from the victim’s mouth immediately, and check it for burns, swelling, cuts and chemical odours. Rinse the mouth with water. In some cases, induced vomiting may be ideal while you wait for help to arrive. But there are times when it is best to keep the poison down. experts caution against inducing vomiting in the following scenarios:

(a) When the person has swallowed a cleaning product containing acids or alkalis. These can severely burn throat tissue when he vomits.

(b) When the person has swallowed a petroleum-based product. These types of chemicals exude fumes that can cause pneumonia if inhaled. When the poisoned person vomits, these fumes can be inhaled.

(c) When the victim is groggy or confused.

(d) When he is too young to understand and follow directions.



Words by Mirza Malik.