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Swallowed poisons

Poisons are substances that can cause temporary or permanent damage if too much is absorbed by the body. Poisons can be swallowed, inhaled, injected or absorbed through the skin.

Swallowed poisons include chemicals, drugs, plants, fungi and berries. For more on drugs, see drug poisoning.

Dangerous chemicals include household products like bleach, which can poison or burn the body if swallowed.

Poisonous plants include foxgloves, wild arum and certain types of mushroom. Eating laburnum seeds can cause seizures.

Drugs, both prescribed or those bought over the counter, can also be harmful if someone takes too many.

What to look for - swallowed poisons

If you think someone may have swallowed poison, these are the five key things to look for:

  1. Nausea and vomiting (sometimes blood-stained)
  2. Cramping stomach pains
  3. A burning sensation
  4. Partial loss of responsiveness
  5. Seizures

What you need to do - swallowed poisons

• If the person is conscious, ask them what they have swallowed, how much and when. Look for clues, like plants, berries or empty packaging and containers.

• Call 999 or 112 for medical help and tell them as much information as possible.

• Keep checking their breathing, pulse and level of response.

• If they become unresponsive, open their airway and check breathing. Follow the instructions for treating someone who is unresponsive.

• Never try to make the person vomit, but if they vomit naturally then put some of their vomit into a bag or container and give it to the ambulance. This may help them identify the poison.

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