First Aid for Accidental Poisoning Accidentally swallowing toxic substances is a very common problem. Children are particularly vulnerable as they are naturally inquisitive. It is critical to know what steps to take in the event of an accidental poisoning. Accidental poisoning may be fatal. Poisoning can be caused by almost any substance. In a household the commonest causes of poisoning are: • Medicines (such as an aspirin overdose) • Household detergents • Household plants (eating toxic plants) • Food poisoning (such as botulism) • Insecticides • Paints (swallowing) • Cosmetics (incorrectly used) • Illicit drug overdose (accidental or intentional) Avoidance • Teach your children as early as possible what a "poison warning" sign looks like • Remove poisonous plants from your home or garden to be safe • Never use an old cool drink bottle to store chemicals or poisons • Drugs - prescription and non-prescription - should be kept out of the reach of children or people who have difficulty reading labels • Many non-food substances will be toxic if taken in large doses. Try to keep these items on high shelves or locked in cupboards if you have small children. Preparedness Keep the telephone number of your emergency services near the phone Keep the number of your local poison unit available FIRST AID STEPS Recognise the symptoms and signs: It may be difficult to tell if there has been accidental poisoning. Look for some of the following: • Burns or redness around the mouth and lips, which can result from drinking certain poisons • Breath that smells like chemicals, such as paraffin or paint thinners • Burns, stains and odours on the person, on his or her clothing or on the furniture, floor, rugs or other objects in the surrounding area • Empty medication bottles or scattered pills • Vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain • Drowsiness, blurred vision, dizziness, sleepiness, unconsciousness Call for Help: It is important to call for assistance as soon as you suspect an overdose. Call your emergency services immediately. Treatment • Check the person's airway, breathing and pulse. If necessary, begin rescue breathing and CPR. • Try to make sure that the victim has actually been poisoned. It is not always obvious. • Call a poison unit • Only induce vomiting if the poison unit or a doctor tells you to do so • To induce vomiting give the person a glass of warm water containing 3 teaspoons of salt or 1 spoonful of dried mustard • If the victim vomits, clear the airway. Wrap a cloth around your fingers before cleaning out his or her mouth and throat. • If the victim starts having convulsions, protect him or her from injury • If poison has spilled on the victim's clothes, remove the clothing and flush the skin with water • Reassure the person and keep him or her comfortable while getting or awaiting medical help. Try to keep calm; speak slowly and with confidence. DO NOT • DO NOT give an unconscious person anything by mouth. • DO NOT induce vomiting unless you are told to do so by the poison unit or a doctor. A poison that burns on the way down the throat will also do damage on the way back up. • DO NOT wait for symptoms to develop if you suspect someone has been poisoned.