The average household is filled with a variety of poisons. Often, these poisons are mundane chemicals that are placed in containers that don’t particularly stand out. Examples of this would be anti-freeze and rat poison, which often has arsenic as a component. In some cases, drugs such as sleeping pills are placed in child-proof containers that, ironically, only children ever seem able to open without too much frustration. The possibility of being chemically poisoned in one’s own home are much higher than when eating out. This does not mean that the chances of being poisoned are very high, though it is often prudent that the people in the household be aware of some of the basic steps to be taken in case someone appears to have been poisoned.
The first step is the oft-repeated, rarely actually performed words “remain calm.” Keeping calm is the first thing anyone who has been poisoned should do. There are several reasons why this is so critical. For starters, panicking is likely to get in the way of properly accomplishing typical first aid tasks to help keep the poisons’ side effects from kicking in too soon. Panic also makes it much harder for people to understand what you’re trying to tell them when you’re calling the local hospital, which means that help may come too late. Finally, some poisons can spread through the body and become lethal faster if the circulatory system is kicked into high gear, which frequently occurs when a person allows panic attacks to take over.
Once you’ve managed to remain calm and avoid panic, the next step is to call the local hospital or poison control center. Be sure to inform them of your symptoms and, if you have the knowledge, what poison you came into contact with. Obviously, an address has to be provided so they would know where to go. Other bits of information might also be useful to provide, such as how much poison you think you ingested and whether or not your medical history is allergic to certain compounds or medications. Again, remaining calm can be critical in quickly conveying the necessary information over the phone. After that step, then basic first aid can differ depending on how the poison was contacted by the body.
If the poison was breathed in, such as in the case of ammonia and bleach mixed together, then you’d best move to a well-ventilated area. Stay as far from the poisonous gas as possible to avoid further poisoning and try to get as much fresh air into the lungs as possible. Artificial respiration may be needed if the poison has already started to work and the victim is no longer breathing. Regardless of what the poison was, so long as it was breathed in, minimizing further contact with the toxic fumes is a necessity. Most poisons of this sort can do much more damage after prolonged exposure than the initial contact.
For poisons that come into contact with the skin, the procedure is obviously different. The first step is to remove any poison from the surface if the toxin in question was dry. This should be done with protected hands, to avoid further contamination and potential side effects. The parts where the poison was contacted and the areas around them should be washed heavily with plain water. Washing out the poison is particularly critical if it was in liquid form. Rinse the areas with soap and continue washing to remove as much of the poison from the skin as possible. Any clothing that may have come into contact with the poison should be immediately discarded.
Finally, for ingested poisons or a drug overdose, there are a few steps to be taken. There is little first aid measures can do to prevent the poison from taking effect, but there are measures to help prevent further poisoning. Examine the mouth and remove any traces of pills, tablets, or whatever form the poison might have been ingested in. Rinsing the mouth and wiping the lips with a wet cloth can sometimes help if the poison was in liquid form.