It’s not something that many people think about, but the truth is that ingesting a poisonous substance can happen to anyone. Whether it be from household cleaners, drugs, or something else entirely, knowing what to do and how to react in these situations is imperative to your safety. Here are five things you must do after ingesting a poisonous substance:
In the moment, it may be difficult to remain calm after you’ve accidentally ingested poison, but this is extremely important. Panicking will only worsen the situation. In fact, it is best if no one else in the household panics either because they could interfere with treatment or cause you to harm themselves trying to help. In addition, you should avoid crying. This is because tears can wash chemicals into your eyes and lungs, worsening the situation.
Remain alert for symptoms
Symptoms of poisoning will vary depending on what you’ve ingested and how much. But they generally fall under three categories: gastrointestinal (stomach pain and cramping, nausea), neurological (headache, fever), and cardiovascular (fast or slow heart rate, blood pressure changes).
Some symptoms might not even surface for hours after you’ve ingested poison. Also, keep in mind that alcohol or other substances can make your symptoms worse. If symptoms get worse over time, contact poison control or seek immediate medical attention.
Treat the symptoms
Once you’ve determined that you need treatment for poisoning, there are a few things you can do to treat the symptoms yourself until professional help arrives:
If swallowed, drink milk; it works by neutralizing the poison in your stomach and limiting absorption. If swallowing is difficult, rinse your mouth with water. If you can’t drink milk or water, turn the glass upright and use a spoon to scoop some of the neutralizing agents out.
If breathing becomes difficult due to burns in your mouth or throat, try drinking water while tilting your head forward to prevent choking. If you are coughing, place yourself on your side to ease breathing.
If you have been exposed to poisonous gas, move to fresh air immediately. If possible, cover your mouth and nose with a cloth or tissue rather than using your hands. Inhaling through a wet cloth helps filter out the poison before it can inhale into your lungs.
Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated
If the poison you ingested is corrosive, for example, your doctor may recommend that you drink lots of water immediately after ingestion to dilute it. You should also stay hydrated throughout the day by drinking plenty of water until symptoms dissipate completely. Furthermore, certain poisons like hydrogen peroxide, bleach, and drain cleaners will induce vomiting when ingested. If you suspect that this is the case, make sure to drink lots of water beforehand so that the poison is washed out before it induces vomiting and spreads in your body.
Seek immediate medical attention
If you’re not sure whether or not what you’ve ingested is poisonous, you must seek immediate help. You’ll need to call your local poison control center or 911 immediately.
Alternatively, you can go directly to facilities that offer urgent care to address early symptoms of poisoning. If it is indeed a poisonous substance and symptoms are worsening, their staff can give you more specialized treatment.
Often, these facilities might be better than going to the nearest emergency room. For example, these centers tend to be better staffed for after-hour emergencies because urgent situations arise during off-hours. In an emergency, you need a facility that is prepared and able to treat you quickly.
Do not induce vomit
While it is important to drink lots of water, do not induce vomiting after ingesting poison because you will likely end up inhaling the substance into your lungs. Vomiting can also lead you to choke on the poison. Instead, stay calm and seek urgent medical attention if necessary. Furthermore, vomiting may wash away the neutralizing agent that can help in eliminating the poison in your body.
Do not get rid of the poison yourself
It is tempting to get rid of the poison you’ve ingested because it’s right in front of you. But this can often lead to exacerbating the situation. For example, if you throw out cleaning products that contain poisonous substances like ammonia or bleach, then you will release these chemicals into the air and possibly harm yourself further by inhaling them.
The only time this may be appropriate is if you or someone else has ingested an unidentified substance. In this case, you should get rid of the poisonous substance immediately because it could cause further harm to others in your household. Dispose of chemicals safely by taking them outside and waiting for a professional to pick them up rather than flushing them down the toilet or putting them in the garbage.
If you accidentally ingest a poisonous substance, knowing what to do and how to react in these situations is imperative. Seek emergency medical attention as well as follow all instructions given by professionals at medical facilities concerning treatments for poisoning. If it’s an unidentified substance unknown whether or not it’s harmful but could be dangerous for others nearby, take precautions and dispose of poisonous substances properly following instructions from safety professionals.