What to Do If You Have Ingested Poisonous Substances

There are many things around the average home that we of course shouldn’t eat – or at least should only eat a certain amount of. These obviously include things like strong medications, bleach, cleaning products, pesticides etc., and it’s highly important to ensure that you prevent this as far as possible by keeping them labelled as toxic, by keeping them out of reach, and by ensuring they are sealed with a child-proof lid.

Even with the utmost caution mistakes do happen, and you will encounter situations where either you or a member of your family has ingested dangerous substances. If this happens it’s important to remain calm and to act swiftly but sensibly to solve the problem.

Here we will look at some steps you can take to help prevent a serious reaction.

1. Call 911

This is the first thing you should do and you can also get some advice on the phone if you can give them information regarding what exactly it was you swallowed. It is always advisable to wait for emergency services rather than trying to solve the problem yourself and this way you can avoid inadvertently making the problem worse. You may also have a local poison control service that you can call.

2. Use Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is charcoal that has a lot of air pockets in it. These air pockets make the charcoal like a sponge, meaning that it can absorb all kinds of chemicals, toxins, bacteria and other substances. This can then help to counteract the problems caused by many harmful substances, and will not exacerbate the issue in any case making it safe to use. Of course not everyone has activated around the house, but if you’re reading this now then put it on your to do list to stock up quickly.

3. Induce Vomiting

But only if you have been instructed to do so first. The problem here is that forcing yourself to vomit can in some cases make matters worse by causing damage to your throat and oesophagus. However if you suspect you have eaten undercooked meat or something similar, then such substances may be safe to vomit back up. To make yourself sick you should first drink some water as a lubricant, and you should use either Syrup of Ipecac, a saline solution or two fingers to help cause the gagging.

If you are going to the emergency services then you should contain this vomit in a bag and take it with you. It’s disgusting yes, but they may be able to use this to learn more about the nature of the problem.

4. Antidotes

In some cases it will be possible to use antidotes to prevent problems. For instance if you have overdosed on opiates, then naloxone is an antidote which can be recommended.

5. Water

In most cases drinking water can help. Not only should you use water to wash out your mouth (thus ensuring there is none of the substance remaining) but drinking it may help to dilute the substance in your stomach and encourage it to pass through your system.

At the Hospital

When you get to the emergency room you may receive various treatments. These might first address any symptoms that the person might be suffering from – such as difficulty breathing in which case clearing the airways will be the first priority. Following this a stomach pump may be used to remove the substance before more enters the blood stream, and in rare cases whole bowel irrigation may be utilized. The patient will then be monitored to ensure they recover.

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