First Aid Certificate Training and Courses

Poisoning and Toxic Substances

Poisoning and Toxic Substances

Any substance that can impair function, cause structural damage, or otherwise injure the body is considered to be poisonous. Poisoning can be either accidental or intentional. Some poisons act very quickly on the body while others take much longer to act. Exposure to some poisons, such as cyanide, is so toxic they only require a tiny amount to be harmful, while others, such as garden sprays, are cumulative and require exposure over a long period to achieve the same level of toxicity. Some may be carcinogenic, and cause fatal cancers some years after exposure.

Poisonous substances can enter the body via:

Absorption through the skin.

Ingestion – swallowing.

Inhalation – breathing.

Injection – drug abuse.

Bites via snake and spider.

Prevention

Survey your home and identify all poisonous substances.

Remove poisons and medicines that are not needed and dispose of them safely in accordance with Poisons Information Centre advice.

Store poisons and medicines in their original packaging in a locked child-resistant cupboard or container out of the reach of children.

Use non-poisonous alternatives when possible.

Keep the amount of poisonous substances in your home to a minimum.

Ask for and use medicines and substances available in child-resistant packaging.

Read the medicine labels and use according to the directions.

When administering medicines ensure the right medication, right person, right dose, right route and right time is adhered to.

If poisoning occurs, it is important to obtain a history, look for empty bottles, containers, and sometimes suicide notes. If possible, ascertain what poison or medicine has been taken, including how much and when.


Advice on poisons is available from the:

Poisons Information Centre (P.I.C.)

13 11 26

24 hours a day, 7 days a week

If the casualty is conscious contact the Poisons Information Centre to find out what to do next.
If the casualty is unconscious call 000 for an ambulance.

With such a diverse range of poisonous substances signs and symptoms of poisoning are many and varied.

The signs and symptoms listed below are not exhaustive and casualties may present with all, or only a few of these.

If you, or someone in your care, may have been poisoned, do not wait for symptoms to occur.

Follow these management steps immediately.

Pale, cool, clammy skin.

Rapid, weak (sometimes erratic) pulse.

Nausea and/or vomiting.

Stomach pains or cramps.

Headache.

Blurred vision.

Ringing in the ears.

Breathing difficulties.

Bluish skin colour.

Burns around the mouth.

Burning in the mouth or throat.

Drowsiness, may lead to unconsciousness.

Seizures.

Smell of fumes or odours.


Swallowed Poisons – Conscious Casualty

Follow the DRSABCD emergency action plan.

Give the casualty a sip of water.

DO NOT try to make the casualty vomit.

If safe to do so, take the poison container to the telephone. Alternatively, if the poison container is contaminated, note down the product name and any ingredients listed. Take this note with you to the telephone.

Call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26.

DO NOT use Ipecac Syrup unless recommended by the Poisons Information Centre or your doctor.

Poison/Chemical in the Eye

Follow the DRSABCD emergency action plan.

Flood the eye with water from a slow running tap, cup or jug.

Continue to flush for 15 minutes, holding the eyelids open.

If safe to do so, take the poison container to the telephone. Alternatively, if the poison container is contaminated, note down the product name and any ingredients listed. Take this note with you to the telephone.

Call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26.


Poison on the Skin

Follow the DRSABCD emergency action plan.

Remove contaminated clothing, taking care to avoid contact with the poison.

Flood the skin with running water.

Wash gently with soap and water and rinse well.

If safe to do so, take the poison container to the telephone. Alternatively, if the poison container is contaminated, note down the product name and any ingredients listed. Take this note with you to the telephone.

Call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26.


Inhaled Poisons – Conscious Casualty

Follow the DRSABCD emergency action plan.

Immediately get the person to fresh air, without placing yourself at risk.

Avoid breathing fumes.

If it is safe to do so, open doors and windows wide.

If safe to do so, take the poison container to the telephone. Alternatively, if the poison container is contaminated, note down the product name and any ingredients listed. Take this note with you to the telephone.

Call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26.

If the casualty is not breathing, call 000 for an ambulance and commence CPR using “Mouth-to-Mask” resuscitation using a CPR face shield.


First aid information on product labels can become outdated.

Always contact the Poisons Information Centre 13 11 26 for up to date advice.
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