First Aid for Poisonings

Sometimes accidental poisonings can be treated in the home by following the directions of a poison control center or your child’s healthcare provider. At other times, emergency medical care is needed.

Swallowed poison

If you find your child with an open or empty container of a toxic substance, your child may have been poisoned. Stay calm and act quickly:

  • Get the poison away from the child.

  • If the substance is still in the child’s mouth, make him or her spit it out or remove it with your fingers. Keep this along with any other evidence of what the child has swallowed.

  • Do not make the child vomit.

  • Do not follow instructions on packaging regarding poisoning because these are often outdated. Instead call your child’s healthcare provider or poison control center right away for instructions.

If your child has any of the following symptoms, call the poison control center at 800-222-1222, call your child’s healthcare provider, or go to the closest emergency room:

  • Sore throat

  • Trouble breathing

  • Drowsiness, irritability, or jumpiness

  • Nausea, vomiting, or stomach pain without fever

  • Lip or mouth burns or blisters

  • Unusual drooling

  • Strange odors on your child’s breath

  • Unusual stains on your child’s clothing

Take or send the poison container with your child to help the healthcare provider find out what was swallowed. Both the poison control center and your child’s healthcare provider will need the following information to help you:

  • Your name and phone number

  • Your child’s name, age, and weight

  • Any health conditions your child may have

  • Any medicines your child may be taking

  • The name of the substance your child swallowed. Read it from the container and spell it.

  • The time your child swallowed the poison (or when you found your child), and the amount you think was swallowed.

  • Any symptoms your child may be having

  • If the substance was a prescription medicine, give all the information on the label, including the name of the medicine:

    • If the name of the medicine is not on the label, give the name and phone number of the pharmacy, and the date of the prescription.

    • What the pill looked like (if you can tell) and if it had any printed numbers or letters on it.

  • If your child swallowed another substance, such as a part of a plant, describe it as much as you can to help identify it.

Poison on the skin

If your child spills a chemical on his or her body, remove any contaminated clothes. Rinse the skin well with lukewarm—not hot—water. If the area shows signs of being burned or irritated, continue rinsing for at least 15 minutes, no matter how much your child may protest. Then call the poison center for more instructions. Do not use ointments, butter, or grease on the area.

Poison in the eye or eyes

Flush your child’s eye by holding the eyelid open and pouring a small, steady stream of lukewarm—not hot—water into the inner corner near the nose. Let the water run across the eye to the outside corner to flush the area well. You may need help from another adult to hold your child while you rinse the eye. Or wrap your child tightly in a towel and hold your child under one arm. Continue flushing the eye for 15 minutes, and call the poison center for more instructions. Do not use an eyecup, eye drops, or ointment unless the poison center tells you to do so.

Poisonous fumes or gases

In the home, poisonous fumes can come from the following sources:

  • A car running in a closed garage

  • Leaky gas vents

  • Wood, coal, or kerosene stoves that are not working as they should

  • Mixing bleach and ammonia together, which makes chloramine gas

  • Strong fumes from other cleaners and solvents

If your child breathes in fumes or gases, get him or her into fresh air right away:

  • If your child is breathing without problem, call the poison center for more instructions.

When to call 911

If your child has any of the following symptoms, call 911 or your local emergency service:

  • Seizures or is unconscious

  • Difficulty breathing

If your child has stopped breathing, start CPR and do not stop until your child breathes on his or her own or someone else can take over. If you can, have someone call 911 right away. If you are alone, do CPR for 2 minutes and then call 911.

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