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Poisoning: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About poisoning

Poisoning is the term used for the harmful outcome that occurs when one inhales, swallows, or otherwise comes in contact with a toxic substance.

Poisoning: Incidence, age and sex

Every year, more than 2 million people suffer from some or other sort of poisoning. Young children often have accidental poisoning at home. Elderly and hospitalized people too are vulnerable to accidental poisoning, mainly due to confusion about their drugs. Industrial workers may also be exposed to poisoning from constant inhaling or exposure to toxic chemicals. Poisoning may also be a deliberate attempt to commit murder or suicide.

Signs and symptoms of poisoning: Diagnosis

The damage caused by poisoning to the body depends upon the kind of poison, the quantity taken or inhaled, age and the underlying health of the person. Some poisons are not very dangerous and may cause problems only when one is exposed to them, for a long period of time. But some poisons are so potent that just a drop on the skin can cause severe harm, trauma or damage.

Symptoms due to very potent poisons may be evident within seconds or hours, whereas others may cause symptoms only after a few days. Some poisons rarely exhibit any symptoms until they have damaged vital organs such as the kidneys or liver, sometimes permanently.

The diagnosis is based on the symptoms and information from the poisoned person and the eyewitnesses, if any. Certain blood and urine tests also may reveal poisoning.

Causes and prevention of poisoning

Possible poisonous substances are certain potent medications when taken in dosages more than normal. Other poisons include illicit drugs, certain gases, certain chemicals and certain foods.

Medications should always be kept out of the reach of children to prevent them from accidentally ingesting them.

Poisoning: Complications

Major complications of any kind of poisoning include the failure of vital organs of the body, which may ultimately lead to death.

Poisoning: Treatment

The treatment consists of supporting the person and preventing additional absorption of the poison. In cases, where there is a toxic exposure to gas, people exposed to a toxic gas should be removed from the source quickly and taken out into the fresh air.

In chemical spills, all contaminated body wear including jewellery, should be removed immediately and the skin surface thoroughly washed with soap and water. If the eyes have been exposed, they should be thoroughly flushed with water or saline. The poisoned person needs to be medically treated immediately. If he is unconscious, he should be provided artificial breathing (tracheal intubation).

Once the poison has moved past the stomach, treatment with activated charcoal needs to be given. Activated charcoal makes the poison to stick to itself and thus cannot be absorbed in the blood stream avoiding the danger.

Drinking large quantity of a fluid also flushes the entire gastrointestinal tract before the poison gets absorbed. A medication by the name of ‘Atropine’ may also be used in some cases, since it acts as an antidote for certain nerve gases and insecticides.