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Poisoning from Household Chemicals
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Poisoning from Household Chemicals

Many everyday household substances are potentially poisonous if misused. Unfortunately, many admissions to hospital are the result of children drinking household chemicals while playing. Inside the home, cleaning materials are often the biggest risk, while in the garden weedkillers, pesticides and paint stripper are common culprits. Most household chemicals cause problems when they are swallowed. Many are corrosive and together with the effect of the poison also cause burns to the mouth and food canal (digestive tract).

Signs and symptoms

  • Signs of bottles, information from the casualty or from bystanders
  • Burns to the mouth
  • Vomiting
  • Pain
  • Impaired consciousness
  • Difficulty breathing

Managing swallowed poisons

First Aid Treatment

Make sure that it is safe for you to approach. Do not inadvertently kneel in chemicals or otherwise expose yourself to any risk.

  1. Monitor and maintain the airway and breathing. Be prepared to resuscitate if necessary.
  2. Monitor consciousness. If the person becomes unconscious, put into the recovery position.
  3. Call an ambulance and tell the emergency services what has happened.
  4. Treat any burns, wearing protective clothing if necessary.
  5. Support the person if he is sick and place in the recovery position if necessary.
  6. Reassure the person while you are waiting for the emergency services to arrive.
  7. Identify the poison if possible because this will help medical staff determine what treatment is appropriate.

If there are mouth burns

If the person stops breathing you will need to give rescue breaths. However, if there are mouth burns because the poison was corrosive, you must take care not to put yourself at risk. Use a face shield or mask when giving the rescue breaths. This should be placed over the casualty's face and the oval tube placed between the teeth. The plastic shield forms a barrier as you give mouth-to-mouth.

If there is no shield available, consider giving rescue breaths mouth-to-nose. Tilt the head and lift the chin as you would normally. Then close the mouth (using a piece of material as a barrier against the poison if appropriate) and seal your mouth around the casualty's nose. Give rescue breaths at the same rate and ratio as you would when giving mouth-to-mouth. Take your mouth away after each breath and open the casualty's mouth between breaths to let the air out.

If the casualty is breathing and conscious, you may provide relief from the burning by giving frequent sips of cold water. This will help relieve pain and reduce swelling.

Prevention of poisoning from household substances
  • Put all household cleaning materials and medicines up high out of the reach of children
  • Consider putting any dangerous substances in a locked cupboard
  • Always read instructions for use carefully. Some household chemicals should be used only in a well-ventilated room or with some protective clothing
  • Always store chemicals in the container they came in or a clearly marked alternative. Never store chemicals in drinks containers or unmarked bottles
  • Keep gardening supplies securely in the shed or garage in a locked container
  • Where possible, buy medicines and cleaning materials in childproof containers

Do not

Do not try to make the person vomit. If a poison burns on the way down to the stomach, it will burn on the way up.

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Disclaimer: website is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease. Always take the advice of professional health care for specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment. We will not be liable for any complications, or other medical accidents arising from the use of any information on this web site. Please note that medical information is constantly changing. Therefore some information may be out of date.