Poisoning can occur when you inhale, swallow, or touch something that makes you very ill. Some poisons can cause death.
Poisoning usually occurs from:
Signs or symptoms of poisoning may include:
Other health problems can also cause some of these symptoms. However, if you think someone has been poisoned, you should act quickly.
Not all poisons cause symptoms right away. Sometimes symptoms come on slowly or occur hours after exposure.
The U.S. Poison Help Line recommends taking these steps if someone is poisoned.
Call the U.S. National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. Do not wait until the person has symptoms before you call. Try to have the following information ready:
The center is available anywhere in the U.S. 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. You can call and talk with a poison expert to find out what to do in case of a poisoning. Often you will be able to get help over the phone and not have to go to the emergency room.
If you need to go to the emergency room, the health care provider will check your temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure.
You may need other tests, including:
To keep more poison from being absorbed, you may receive:
Other treatments may include:
Take these steps to help prevent poisoning.
Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the medicines you take.
Emergency Management of Poisoning. In: Shannon MW, Borron SW, Burns MJ, eds. Haddad and Winchester's Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 2.
Kelig K. General Approach to the Poisoned Patient. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2012:chap 147.
Rezaiyan R. Poisonings. In: Tschudy MM, Arcara KM. Johns Hopkins: The Harriet Lane Handbook. 19th ed. Philadephia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2011: chap 2.
Updated by: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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