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Substances which when taken into the body cause damage to health are called poisons.

health and fitness Updated: Sep 26, 2003 21:05 IST

Substances which when taken into the body cause damage to health or death are called poisons. Poisons can get into the body by one of the following routes:

By swallowing

By Inhalation

By Injection

By Contact with the skin


Removing the patient to the hospital or a doctor is the highest priority and needs to be done as quickly as possible.

    Preserve the packets or bottles of the suspected poison and also any of the vomitus, sputum etc. for the doctor to examine.

    If the patient is unconscious, do not induce vomiting.

    Make the patient lie on his back on a hard, flat bed without any pillow and turn the head to one side. As there is no pressure on the stomach and the gullet is horizontal, the vomited matter will not get into the air passages. This is also a good posture for giving artificial respiration if needed.

    Sometimes when there is excess vomiting the three quarter-prone position (when the patient is made to lie on his side with one leg stretched and the other bent at the knee and the thigh) will make things easier for the patient.

    If the breathing is very slow or has stopped, start artificial respiration and continue till the doctor comes.

    If the patient is conscious, and the poison is not a corrosive, aid vomiting by tickling the back of the throat or make him drink tepid water mixed with two table spoonfuls of common salt for one tumbler of water.

    When the poison is a corrosive do not induce vomiting. Signs of corrosive poisoning include greyish white or yellowish burn patches around the lips and mouth.

    Certain poisons need to be diluted by giving large quantities of cold water (iced, if possible). This will dilute the irritant and delay the absorption and will replace the fluid lost by vomiting. However, this should be done only for some poisons and not as a general rule. (See table below)

    For certain poisons soothing drinks like milk, egg beaten and mixed with water or Sujee Conjee are good for the purpose. (See table below)

    For several poisons specific antidotes are available and it is essential that one seeks information about these antidotes.

Some Common Poisons and the First Aid for them

PoisonSourceFirst Aid
ArsenicRat Poisons, Weed KillersInduce vomiting and give soothing drinks.
AspirinAspirin TabletsInduce vomiting. drink of soda bicarbonate (one tsp. to a tumbler of Water) to be given. Strong coffee or tea may be given.
Carbon-MonoxideCharcoal Stove, Gas Stove, Exhaust gases of carsApply artificial respiration. Give Oxygen.
Sleeping TabletsChemistsInduce Vomiting. Give Magnesium Sulphate. (2tsp. in water). Give hot coffee. Keep the patient awake.
MercuryCalomel, Teething Powders, MercuryGive white of egg in water. Later give milk. Then induce vomiting.
LeadPaints, Hair Dyes, PencilsInduce vomiting. Then give Magnesium Sulphate in water.
Opium and MorphiaHospitals, Some Chemical Mixtures, Opium addicts.Put a few crystals of Potassium Permanganate in a tumbler of water and give as a drink. Give hot coffee. Keep the patient awake.
Petrol, Paraffin, KeroseneHouses, Garages, Oil IndustryInduce Vomiting. Give a large quantity of water or tender coconut. Liquid Paraffin if available is preferable to water in cases of Kerosene Oil poisoning.
PhosphorousRat Poisons and Match HeadsInduce vomiting. Give a large quantity of water or tender coconut. Never give oils as they will dissolve the phosphorous and increase the effect of the poison.
Prussic AcidPhotography or Electroplating Industries, Oil of Bitter Almonds, Tender Bamboo shootsEmergency. Act at once. Induce vomiting. Begin artificial Begin artificial respiration.
StrychnineSome vermin killersInduce vomiting if there are no spasms. If breathing is irregular or has stopped, give artificial respiration.
FollidolBug Killers and Cockroach KillersInduce vomiting. Give water or or tender coconut. Start artificial respiration if required.

In all the cases please remember that it is essential to get the patient to a doctor or hospital as soon as possible.


First Published: Sep 26, 2003 20:49 IST