How to Treat Poisoning

How to Treat Poisoning

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit
Unintentional poisoning causes thousands of deaths every year, many as a result of products around the home. Quick response and proper emergency assistance can help prevent some of these deaths. The following information will help you to know what to do for a victim of poisoning.


  1. Understand what poisoning is. A poison is a substance that enters the body and causes injury, illness, or death. A poison can be in the form of a solid, a liquid, a gas, or vapor fumes. The areas through which poisons can enter the body are:[1]
    • the mouth and digestive system
    • through the lungs (fumes)
    • absorption of a chemical or plant extract through skin
    • via injection.
  2. Remain calm. When approaching someone who appears to be poisoned, it is crucial that you observe and check for anything that may endanger you as well, especially in the case of gas and vapors.
    • Ensure that you, the victim, and any other people are safe before attempting to give first aid. If needed, and if safe to do so, move the patient to somewhere safer, away from the poison.
    • If the poison is in the form of a gas, check the area first for your safety, then remove the victim from the area and go to an area with fresh air. For more information, read wikiHow's articles on how to survive a gas attack and preventing carbon monoxide poisoning after an emergency.
    • Look for what may have poisoned the person. Look for tablets, plants (berries), mouth burns, etc. Knowing the source of the poison is essential for treatment purposes.
  3. Check for signs and symptoms of poisoning. Symptoms and signs of poisoning will vary according to what has poisoned the victim. Some of the more common symptoms include:[2]
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Abdominal pain
    • Burns or redness around the mouth
    • Unconsciousness, or slipping into unconsciousness
    • Seizures
    • Difficulties in breathing, breath that smells of chemicals or almonds, etc.
    • Unusual behaviors such as aggression, hallucinations, confusion, sudden exhaustion, etc.
    • Physical signs such as stains on clothing, spilled pills, bottles, etc.
  4. Check the victim's state of consciousness. The state of consciousness determines the approach to be taken to caring for the victim and who to contact.
    • If the victim is unconscious but is breathing normally, turn the victim on her side in a supported position. This will open and clear the airway.
    • If the victim is unconscious but there are no signs of life, begin CPR.
    • Call for emergency services to get medical assistance immediately.
  5. Call the poison control center for a conscious (awake and alert) victim. This will enable you to seek specific advice on treating the victim. The phone numbers for various countries are noted under "Tips". Have the following information at hand:
    • Victim's age and weight.
    • The container, bottle of poison, or any other relevant item, (if available).
    • The time the poisoning took place.
    • Address where the poisoning happened.
  6. Stay on the phone and follow all the instructions given to you by emergency assistance or the poison control center.
  7. Note some of the basic responses that you might be able to do before help arrives. The following actions can be helpful, coupled with advice you're provided from emergency advisers:
    • If the source of the poisoning is in solid form, such as pills, wrap your finger in a clean cloth and remove any pills or residue that may be in the victim's mouth.
    • If the poison is a skin corrosive, remove the victim's clothing from the injured area and flush with water for 30 minutes. Discard the clothing to prevent further injury to anyone else.
    • If the poison has come in contact with the victim's eyes, flush the eyes with clean, lukewarm water for a minimum of 15 minutes. Ask the victim to blink a lot but to avoid rubbing their eyes.
    • Check the product label if the victim has swallowed a household product. There will often be emergency instructions provided on the label.
    • Do not induce vomiting unless you're advised to do so by medical professionals.
    • Do not administer syrup of ipecac. This is no longer advised as an appropriate approach to treating poisoning and can either mask symptoms or interfere with reliable treatment options.[3] Vomiting alone will not remove poisons from a stomach.[4]



  • Place the poison control number near your home telephone and save it to your cell or mobile phone. The numbers for poison control centers are:
  • Whenever possible, have the container or label from the poison with you when you call for help. You'll need to answer questions about the poison.
  • Read the label before using a product that may be poisonous.
  • Follow the directions on the label when giving or taking medicines.
  • It's a good idea to have a list of common poisonous plants from your region or in your garden, with photos, so that you can easily recognize berries, flowers, etc.
  • Remember, the goal in the first place is to prevent a poisoning from happening. To prevent future poisonings, keep all potential toxins stored responsibly out of reach of children.


  • Always call for emergency assistance no matter what form of poisoning has occurred. Quick and proper medical assistance is imperative.
  • Never mix household cleaning or chemical products together as some combined chemicals can create toxic gases.
  • Never leave children alone with household products or drugs. Keep all poisonous and toxic items safely out of reach and securely stored.
  • Do not try to remove pills from the mouth of an infant, it could force the pills further into the throat.

Things You'll Need

  • Clean water
  • Safe resting place
  • Telephone

Related wikiHows

Sources and Citations

  1. St John, The New Zealand First Aid Handbook, p. 48, (2009), ISBN 978-014-301187-3
  2. St John, The New Zealand First Aid Handbook, p. 48, (2009), ISBN 978-014-301187-3
  3. Global Crisis Solution Center,
  4. Wikipedia, Syrup of Ipecac,

Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Treat Poisoning. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.


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