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Poison Proofing Your Home (cont.)

Treatment in the Emergency Department

  • Temperature, pulse, and blood pressure are taken by a health care practitioner.
  • If the poisoning is potentially dangerous, the patient is observed while attached to a monitor that tracks heart rate and blood pressure. An intravenous line may be administered to deliver fluids and medication if necessary, and blood tests may be performed.
  • It may be necessary for the patient to drink activated charcoal. Activated charcoal acts as a "super" absorber of many poisons. Once the poison is stuck to the charcoal in the intestine, the poison cannot get absorbed into the bloodstream. Activated charcoal has no taste, but the gritty texture sometimes causes the person to vomit. To be effective, activated charcoal needs to be given as soon as possible after the poisoning. It does not work with alcohol, caustics, lithium (Lithobid), or petroleum products. Do not give activated charcoal at home. Allow medical personnel to decide if this treatment is appropriate.
  • In rare cases, the stomach may be emptied to eliminate the poison. To empty the stomach, a tube is inserted through the patient's nose or mouth and into the stomach. Stomach contents can then be removed through the tube by suction (pumping the stomach).
  • Some products, especially cleaners, contain acids or lyes that can cause severe internal burns. If a health care practitioner is concerned that a product has caused internal burns, an endoscopy may be performed. Endoscopy consists of passing a small, lighted tube, which is actually a camera, through the patient's mouth and then into the throat, esophagus, and stomach to look for damage.
  • The patient may be admitted to the hospital for further observation.

What Is the Poison Control Center?

  • Poison control centers are staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Staff members can provide information about poison prevention and telephone stickers with the telephone number for the national poison control center. The National Poison Control Center phone number in the U.S. is 1-800-222-1222. They will connect you with the poison control center closest to your location.
  • Pharmacists and nurses can provide information and, if necessary, refer a person to a hospital.
  • Toxicologists (specialists in poison information) can provide information about a variety of poisonings, bites, stings, and drug interactions.

Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care


"In the Home: American Association of Poison Control Centers"

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/20/2017

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