A poison is any substance that enters the body and causes temporary or permanent harm. Some substances, such as paracetamol or alcohol, only become harmful to the body when taken in a large quantity. Others, such as some strong weedkillers, need only to be taken in very small amounts to be harmful.
How do poisons affect the body
Different poisons have different effects. The effect is modified by the quantity and the time since exposure.
Potential effects of poisons
Vomiting This is a key response to many poisons, particularly those that have been
Impaired consciousness A person may be confused and slowly lapse into full unconsciousness.
Breathing difficulties Poison may eventually cause breathing to stop.
Change in heart rate Some poisons speed up the heart rate; others slow it down. Poisons may eventually cause the heart to stop.
Erratic and confused behaviour Always suspect poisoning in these instances.
Burns Some poisons burn the skin, some swallowed poisons burn the food canal, bringing the additional risk of swelling around the mouth and throat.
Pain Some poisons will cause pain.
Liver and kidney problems As the liver and kidneys struggle to remove poisons from the body they may become affected themselves.
Key first aid principles for dealing with poisons
Clues to identifying poisons
The early identification of a poison will help medical staff determine an appropriate course of treatment. Potential clues that you as the first person at the scene of the incident may be able to provide include:
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