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First Aid
Alcohol Poisoning
Anaphylactic Shock
Back and Spinal Injury
Bleeding from the Head or Palm
Bleeding From Special Sites
Breathing Difficulties
Burns and Scalds
Chemical Burns and Eye Burns
Chest or Abdominal Wounds
Controlling Bleeding from the Mouth and Nose
Crush Injuries
Drug Poisoning
Emergency Childbirth
Extreme Cold
Extreme Heat
External Bleeding
Eye Wounds
Food Poisoning
Fractures of the Arm and Hand
Fractures, Dislocations and Soft Tissue Injuries
Fractures of the Ribcage
Fractures of the Skull Face and Jaw
Fractures of the Upper Body
Heart Problems
Injuries to the Lower Body
Injuries to the Lower Leg
Internal Bleeding
Poisoning from Household Chemicals
Poisoning from Industrial Chemicals
Sprains and Strains
Other Types of Burn
Unconscious Casualty
If You Have to Move the Casualty


A poison is any substance that enters the body and causes temporary or permanent harm. Some substances, such as paracetamol or alcohol, only become harmful to the body when taken in a large quantity. Others, such as some strong weedkillers, need only to be taken in very small amounts to be harmful.

How do poisons affect the body

Different poisons have different effects. The effect is modified by the quantity and the time since exposure.

Potential effects of poisons

Vomiting This is a key response to many poisons, particularly those that have been
eaten, as the body tries to remove the poison from the system.

Impaired consciousness A person may be confused and slowly lapse into full unconsciousness.

Breathing difficulties Poison may eventually cause breathing to stop.

Change in heart rate Some poisons speed up the heart rate; others slow it down. Poisons may eventually cause the heart to stop.

Erratic and confused behaviour Always suspect poisoning in these instances.

Burns Some poisons burn the skin, some swallowed poisons burn the food canal, bringing the additional risk of swelling around the mouth and throat.

Pain Some poisons will cause pain.

Liver and kidney problems As the liver and kidneys struggle to remove poisons from the body they may become affected themselves.

Key first aid principles for dealing with poisons

  1. Protect yourself and bystanders from the source of the poison by making the scene safe and wearing protective clothing if necessary.
  2. Monitor and maintain the casualty's airway and breathing and be prepared to resuscitate if necessary.
  3. Seek appropriate medical help and help from the emergency services to deal with dangerous substances.
  4. Monitor the casualty's level of consciousness and be prepared to turn into the recovery position if necessary.
  5. Support the casualty if he vomits and place in the recovery position until medical help arrives.
  6. Treat any burns caused by corrosive poisons by flooding the affected area with running water.
  7. Try to identify the source of the poison because this will help determine appropriate medical treatment.

Clues to identifying poisons

The early identification of a poison will help medical staff determine an appropriate course of treatment. Potential clues that you as the first person at the scene of the incident may be able to provide include:

  • Medicine bottles/pill containers (do not assume that an empty bottle means that all the pills were taken).
  • Samples of vomit: if the casualty is sick, keep the vomit for inspection.
  • Details of what happened from bystanders or from the casualty.
  • Identification of animal or insect: if the poisoning route was a bite, try to get a description of the creature. If it is safe to do so, take the poisonous animal or insect to hospital.
  • Chemical containers: be able to describe any hazchem symbol or label if you can get close enough to do so without putting yourself at risk. Do not touch these yourself. Remember that many household substances are toxic.

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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.