The majority of homes contain many products, mostly cleaners and petrol
products, that can do harm if swallowed. Victims of these poisons are often
children, but adults also occasionally succumb.
Something is classified as a poison if , taken into the body in
sufficient quantity, it causes permanent or temporary damage. A list of such
substances will include many household products -- bleach, caustic soda,
fire lighters, methylated spirits, nail varnish, paint stripper, paraffin
and shoe polish, for instance, can all cause distress and even death if
swallowed in sufficient amounts. In the great majority of cases, the
poisoning is accidental, and the victim is more often than not a child.
Symptoms vary according to the poison, but include vomiting and diarrhoea,
breathing difficulties, fits and delirium.
PREVENTION NOT CURE
The surest way to prevent any accidental poisoning is to keep all
potentially dangerous household products in their original packaging and
either locked away or on a high shelf well out of the range of children --
and definitely not under the sink. This rule applies not only in the kitchen
and bathroom, but also in the garage, garden shed or any place you keep weed
killers and other garden chemicals, paint thinners, a and so on.
If, despite your precautions, someone is poisoned, the first thing you
should do, as in most emergencies, is to check that his airway is not
blocked, that he is breathing and has a pulse. If he ahs no pulse or is not
breathing, start resuscitation techniques, but be careful not to add to the
casualty list by contaminating yourself with the poison. Wipe away any
traces of it around his mouth and wash your hands carefully afterwards.
The next thing to do is get medical aid -- a doctor or the emergency
services -- and to identify the poison. If the casualty is conscious, ask
him what he has taken. If he is not, look for a bottle or other container
nearby. The emergency services will want to see this. A sample of the
casualty's vomit may also help analyse what he ahs taken, but be careful not
to contaminate yourself collecting it.
Many household poisons, including bleach, ammonia, soda and floor,
furniture and shoe polishes, are corrosive -- that is, they burn flesh and
other substances with which they come into contact.
Sure signs of a corrosive poison are burns around the mouth, a white
discoloration on the lips, mouth and clothes, and severe pain in the mouth,
gullet and stomach.
If these are present, gently clean the affected areas with a damp sponge
and remove any clothing onto which the poison or vomit has splashed. Be
particularly careful when resuscitating. The pain can be eased with slow
sips from a large glass of cold water or milk.