Chemical Poisoning

What can cause chemical poisoning?

Common sources of chemical poisoning include:

  • Household cleaners

  • Laundry detergent

  • Drain cleaners

  • Varnishes

  • Agricultural products

  • Plants

  • Industrial chemicals

Mixing chemicals can also result in a chemical poisoning. Identifying the type of poison involved is important to effectively treat the person.

What are the symptoms of a chemical poisoning?

Different chemicals will cause different symptoms. Common symptoms can include:

  • Severe throat pain

  • Trouble breathing

  • Burns on the lips or mouth

  • Sudden behavior changes, such as abnormal sleepiness, irritability, or jumpiness

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Stomach cramps with no fever

  • Abnormal drooling or odd odor on the breath

  • Convulsions or unconsciousness (severe cases only)

What to do in case of chemical poisoning

The first action when a person has swallowed a toxic substance and is alert is to call Poison Control at 800-222-1222. This number will connect you to a local poison center that is free, confidential, and available 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

If a person is not breathing, unconscious, or having convulsions or seizures because of poisoning, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

Don't give a person who has been poisoned ipecac. This is a chemical used to cause vomiting (emetic). It's made from the dried root of a plant grown in Brazil called ipecacuanha. Ipecac was commonly used in the past. Guidelines now say not to use it because it can cause more harm than good.

Online Medical Reviewer: Chris Southard RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Eric Perez MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Tara Novick BSN MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2023
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