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If the person has no symptoms but has taken a potentially dangerous poison, you should also call a poison control center or go to the nearest emergency department for an evaluation.
Poison is anything that kills or injures through its chemical actions. Most poisons are swallowed (ingested). The word poison comes from the Latin word – potare – meaning to drink. But poisons can also enter the body in other ways:
- By breathing
- Through the skin
- By IV injection
- From exposure to radiation
- Venom from a snake bite or insect bite
What Are Types of Poisoning?
- Some mushrooms are poisonous
- Drinking water contaminated by agricultural or industrial chemicals
- Food that has not been properly prepared or handled
Drugs that are helpful in therapeutic doses may be deadly when taken in excess.
- Warfarin (Coumadin): Coumadin is a blood thinner used to prevent blood clots. It is the active ingredient in many rat poisons and may cause heavy bleeding and death if too much is taken.
- Vitamins: Vitamins, especially A and D, if taken in large amounts can cause liver problems and death.
What is poison?
Poison is a toxic substance that is unsafe for the body. One may swallow it, breathe it, infuse it or assimilate it through the skin. Poisonous substances can include:
- Solutions or over-the-counter prescriptions taken in the form of medications that are too high in dosage
- Overdoses of illegal medications or drugs
- Carbon monoxide from gas apparatuses
- Family unit items, like, laundry powder or furniture polish
- Indoor or open air plants
- Metals like lead and mercury
Common causes and risk factors for poisoning
Before we move further to the symptoms of poisoning and analyze the tests required for its treatment, it’s essential to understand the causes and risk factors that can lead to poisoning. Common signs of poisoning in humans are as follows:-
- Automobile fluids
- Foreign objects like batteries and toys
- Art supplies and office supplies
- Paints and thinners
- Cleaning products used at home, such as washing/dishwasher detergents or drain cleaners
- Personal care products
- Prescription medicine
In most cases of poisoning, it is seen that it:
- Happens at home
- Develops suddenly
- Is accidental or unintentional in nature
- Includes kids under the age of 6 years
Certain things and substances can cause poisoning in humans, especially in children. Common causes of poisoning in children include:
- Personal care products like beauty creams, lotions, cosmetics, mouthwash, etc.
- Cleaning products and chemicals used in households like pesticides and cleaning agents
- Prescription or over-the-counter medicines like cold and cough medicines, painkillers, vitamins or daily supplements.
How to reduce the risk of poisoning
Now that we have clearly explained the visible symptoms of poisoning – from mild to severe, we must know the steps we can take to prevent poisoning or at least reduce the risk of poisoning. Mentioned below are some pointers that should be taken care of to prevent the condition.
Reduce the risk of poisoning caused due to the intake of certain medicines
- Keep all medicines (including over-the-counter medications, dietary supplements, and natural medications) out of the range of kids
- Store all medications in their unique compartments
- Try not to carry medicines in your pockets, purse or coat, where it might be found by a kid
- Supervise kids and never leave medicines unattended
- Do not take medicines in front of a child
- Never refer a medicine as a sweet or candy/toffee
- Discard all the expired medicines
Poisoning Self-Care at Home
- Post the telephone number (along with police, fire, and 911 or equivalent) near your home phones.
- Do not give activated charcoal at home. Allow medical personnel to decide if this treatment is appropriate.
- The poison control center will instruct you what to do or if an antidote is readily available.
What is arsenic poisoning?
Arsenic poisoning, or arsenicosis, happens when a person takes in dangerous levels of arsenic. Arsenic is a natural semi-metallic chemical that is found all over the world in groundwater.
Intake can result from swallowing, absorbing, or inhaling the chemical.
Fast facts about arsenic poisoning
- Arsenic is a natural metalloid chemical that may be present in groundwater.
- Ingestion only poses health problems if a dangerous amount of arsenic enters the body. Then, it can lead to cancer, liver disease, coma, and death.
- Treatment involves bowel irrigation, medication, and chelation therapy.
- It is rare to find dangerous amounts of arsenic in the natural environment. Areas with dangerous arsenic levels are usually well-known and provisions exist to prevent and handle the risk of poisoning.
- Anyone who suspects there may be high arsenic levels in their local environment should contact their local authorities for more information.
What is arsenic?
Arsenic is a naturally occurring, metalloid component of the Earth’s crust. Minuscule quantities of arsenic occur in all rock, air, water, and soil. A metalloid is a substance that is not a metal but shares many qualities with metals.
The concentration of arsenic may be higher in certain geographical regions. This could be a result of human activity, such as metal mining or the use of pesticides. Natural conditions can also lead to a higher concentration.
It can be found combined with other elements in different chemical compounds. Organic forms of arsenic also contain carbon, but inorganic forms do not. Arsenic cannot be dissolved in water.
Inorganic arsenic compounds are more harmful than organic ones. They are more likely to react with the cells in the body, displace certain elements from the cell, and change the cell’s function.
For example, cells use phosphate for energy generation and signaling, but one form of arsenic, known as arsenate, can imitate and replace the phosphate in the cell. This impairs the ability of the cell to generate energy and communicate with other cells.
The symptoms of arsenic poisoning can be acute, or severe and immediate, or chronic, where damage to health is experienced over a longer period. This will often depend on the method of exposure.
A person who has swallowed arsenic may show signs and symptoms within 30 minutes.
These may include:
- severe diarrhea
If arsenic has been inhaled, or a less concentrated amount has been ingested, symptoms may take longer to develop. As the arsenic poisoning progresses, the patient may start experiencing convulsions, and their fingernail pigmentation may change.
Signs and symptoms associated with more severe cases of arsenic poisoning are:
- a metallic taste in the mouth and garlicky breath
- excess saliva
- problems swallowing
- blood in the urine
- cramping muscles
- hair loss
- stomach cramps
- excessive sweating
Arsenic poisoning typically affects the skin, liver, lungs, and kidneys. In the final stage, symptoms include seizures and shock. This could lead to a coma or death.
Complications linked to long-term arsenic consumption include:
- liver disease
- nervous system complications, such as loss of sensation in the limbs and hearing problems
- digestive difficulties
- Groundwater possesses trace amounts of arsenic. On occasion, these levels may exceed the amount a human can safely ingest.
The main cause of arsenic poisoning is the consumption of a toxic amount of arsenic.
Arsenic, consumed in large amounts, can kill a person rapidly. Consumed in smaller amounts over a long period, it can cause serious illness or a prolonged death.
The main cause of arsenic poisoning worldwide is the drinking of groundwater that contains high levels of the toxin. The water becomes contaminated underground by rocks that release the arsenic.
Medical News Today (MNT) asked Dr. Daniel E. Brooks MD, Medical Director of the Banner Poison and Drug Information Center (BPDIC) about the risk of poisoning from contact with arsenic-contaminated underground rock.
The following measures can be taken to protect people from the arsenic in groundwater:
- Arsenic removal systems in homes: If the levels of arsenic in an area are confirmed as unsafe, systems can be purchased for the home to treat drinking water and reduce the arsenic levels. This is a short-term solution until the arsenic contamination can be dealt with at the source.
- Testing nearby water sources for traces of arsenic: Chemically examining the water can help to identify poisonous sources of arsenic.
- Taking care when harvesting rainwater: In areas of high rainfall, arsenic poisoning can be prevented by ensuring the process of collection does not put the water at risk of infection, or cause the water to become a breeding ground for mosquitos.
- Considering the depth of wells: The deeper the well, the less arsenic its water is likely to have.
The treatment depends on the type and stage of the arsenic poisoning.
Some methods remove arsenic from the human body before it causes any damage. Others repair or minimize the damage that has already occurred.
Treatment methods include:
- thoroughly washing and rinsing affected skin
- blood transfusions
- taking heart medication in cases where the heart starts failing
- using mineral supplements that lower the risk of potentially fatal heart rhythm problems
- observing kidney function