Minutes matter in dealing with at-home poisonings. Call 911 immediately if a poisoning has caused a person to have a seizure, lose consciousness, or stop breathing. For all other poisoning events, your local Poison Control Center (which can be accessed from any state by calling 1-800-222-1222) should be contacted as quickly as possible. An expert at the center will provide specific instructions to you. Treatment for every poisoning incident needs to be very individualized, based on the type of substance. First aid that can be provided prior to contacting the Poison Control Center includes:
- Remove poisons in contact with the skin. If an irritant or poison has been splashed on the skin, remove any contaminated clothing and drench the affected area of the body with large amounts of water.
- Rinse eyes that have had chemical contact. When a chemical is accidentally splashed in the eye, flood the area with luke-warm water. Do not attempt to cleanse the area with over-the-counter eye drops. All chemical exposures to the eye will need to be evaluated by a physician.
- If fumes are present. Leave the area to get into fresh air. If you are assisting another injured person, drag or carry the victim outdoors if necessary.
- Do not induce vomiting unless the Poison Control Center advises it. A person who has swallowed a caustic substance like drain cleaner or a petroleum product like kerosene should never be purposefully made to vomit. If the substance burned going down, it will burn coming up, increasing the risk of serious injury to the victim.
When you call your Poison Control Center, have the container that held the suspected poisonous substance with you, because the label will provide useful information to the expert. The poison professional may ask you for the following information:
- The age and size of the person involved
- Approximate amount of the substance involved
- When and how the poisoning occurred
- Known active medical problems
- Whether the person has vomited
- Any first aid attempts already administered by you or another helper
Don't induce vomiting. Your poison control center can advise you if a swallowed substance needs to be cleared quickly. Instead of recommending vomiting, they will recommend transportation to a nearby emergency room where activated charcoal may be administered. Charcoal that is swallowed or piped into the stomach through a tube will safely absorb and neutralize many poisons, eventually clearing them through the stool.