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Poisoning is an adverse reaction that occurs when a person is exposed to a toxic substance. It can be due to inhaling, swallowing, touching or injecting harmful substances into the body. Exposure to poisonous products and substances can cause temporary or permanent damage to the health of an individual. Severe poisoning may cause damage to the nervous system, which results in brain damage, coma, and death.

Signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms of poisoning depend upon the amount and type of poison that affected the person. The general symptoms of poisoning include:

  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Drooling
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Drowsiness
  • Fainting
  • Behavioral changes
  • Confusion
  • Minor skin irritation
  • Stiffness in joints
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Trembling

The following are the severe poisoning symptoms that can result in disability or brain damage:

  • Convulsions
  • Cardiopulmonary arrest
  • Inability to breathe
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Increased respiration
  • Rapid heart rate


The poisoning is caused due to the following:

Animal venom: Most of the venomous animals such as poisonous snakes, spiders, and deadly scorpions can cause poisoning.

Toxic substances: Automobile exhausts such as carbon monoxide, gasoline, pesticides, and other heavy metals can cause severe poisoning.

Household cleansers: Accidental or deliberate intake of household chemicals, such as detergents, drain cleaners, etc. can cause poisoning.

Foods: Contaminated foods, mushrooms, fungus molds and allergens can also lead to poisoning.

Intentional poisoning: Self-poisoning, chemical or drug abuse can increase the risk of intentional poisoning.

Some of the other common substances that cause poisoning are certain herbal medicines, paints, cosmetics, alcohol, and batteries.

Risk factors

There are many risk factors that lead to poisoning, but the most common risk factors include:

  • Occupational exposure: People working in agricultural fields may inhale poisonous gases from the pesticides. Individuals who are exposed to lead, gasoline and other chemical substances in automobile industries.
  • Unhygienic food: Consuming unhygienic and contaminated food can increase your risk of food poisoning.
  • Children: Infants and younger children are at a higher risk of toxicity due to the less well-developed physiology.
  • Drug overdose: An overdose of over-the-counter medications may be harmful to the body.
  • Home environment: Exposure to paints, batteries, old heating systems, etc. can increase the risk of poisoning.


Poisoning can include many hidden complications and secondary medical conditions that can affect major organs such as the heart, respiratory system, kidney, and liver. In severe conditions, complications of poisoning can affect the central nervous system. Prolonged exposure to certain chemicals can cause severe complications; these may include:

  • Prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide can cause life-threatening cardiac complications and permanent brain damage.
  • Longer time exposure to lead can hinder the brain development in children.
  • Exceptionally high lead levels may cause unconsciousness, seizures, and death.


Immediate diagnosis is required to determine the underlying cause and prevent further complications. The diagnosis is based on the type of poisoning. The doctor may first perform a thorough physical examination and checks for the possible signs and symptoms of poisoning. Further diagnostic testing includes:

Blood test: A sample of your blood is collected to identify the toxic levels in the blood. The blood serum levels help in determining the level of toxicity.

Stool examination: If the doctor suspects parasitic infection then stool samples are examined to identify the causative organism that led to food poisoning.

Imaging tests: Imaging studies such as CT scan is recommended to identify if the symptoms due to the other illnesses.


Poisoning needs an emergency treatment, which can cause death if it is left untreated. The treatment for poisoning typically depends upon the severity of the symptoms.

The following are the possible treatment methods to treat poisoning:

  • Activated charcoal – This helps to bind the ingested poisons and reduce the further absorption.
  • Lavage – This is procedure is performed to remove the poisonous contents in the digestive tract.
  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) – CPR is done if the person shows no signs of breathing.
  • Antidotes – Antidotes are given to counteract a particular poisonous effect.
  • Anti-epileptic drugs – These drugs are used if the person has seizures.
  • Ventilator – Ventilator is used if the person is unable to breathe-in sufficient oxygen.


  • Snake bites: Avoid reaching to the places or areas with dense vegetation. Do not attempt to handle venomous snakes.
  • Food poisoning: Avoid using outdated and broken sealed packaged foods. Avoid drinking water from wells or streams that have not been treated or chlorinated.
  • Metal toxicity: Follow certain essential measures, such as using protective clothing and masks while being exposed to hazardous metals or chemicals at workplaces.

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