Poisoning occurs when the body ingests any substance which disrupts how the body functions. It can take many forms, from animal or insect bites to accidental or deliberate consumption of tablets, poisonous berries or household bleach.
Most cases of poisoning involve children under the age of 5.
Symptoms that a person may display will depend on the type of substance involved. However, common symptoms can include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Drowsiness and dizziness
- Headache and fever
- Burns around nose or mouth
- Difficulty breathing
- The person may fall unconscious, or go into shock.
What to do
Stay calm but act quickly
If the person is unconscious:
- Phone 999 (or 112) for an ambulance
- Check for signs of breathing and a pulse and begin CPR if necessary.
- It is useful if you can tell the ambulance the cause of the poisoning – if possible give them the container, or any remaining pills etc.
If the person is conscious:
- If the poison has been swallowed, try and make the person spit any remaining substance/tablets out – with children, run your fingers around the mouth to flick any remaining pieces out.
- Do not try and make the person be sick – unless specifically instructed to do so by a health professional. Induced vomiting can cause even more damage, particularly if a corrosive substance, such as bleach or petrol has been swallowed.
- Do not give anything to eat or drink unless instructed to do so.
- If a chemical is splashed in the eyes – immediately wash eye out with tap water.
- Seek medical help – take the person to your GP or your A&E department.
- It is useful if you can tell the doctor/hospital the cause of poisoning – if possible, give them any container/remaining pills etc. They may also need to know the age and weight of the person and estimated time that the poison was taken.
Remember: prevention is better than cure!
- Use containers with child resistant caps
- Keep chemicals and medicines out of reach and out of sight of children
- Secure cupboards with childproof locks
- Keep all products in their original containers – never transfer into another container, e.g., that children may associate with soft drinks
- Do not remove labels from medicines or household products
- Do not refer to medicines or tablets as sweets
- Read prescription labels carefully to avoid accidental mistakes