First Aid: Poisoning

Call 911 or seek immediate medical help if any of the following is true:

  • You see a sick child or unconcious victim with an open container of pills or chemicals or a damaged plant.

  • The room or the victim’s breath smells of fumes.

  • The victim has burns in or near the mouth.

  • The victim has shallow puncture wounds, suggesting a venomous snake bite (usually on the lower arm or leg).

Woman talking on phone, boy in bed in background.

Swallowed poisons

Step 1. Call poison control

  • If there is no Poison Control Center in your area, call 911 or ask the operator to connect you to emergency services.

  • DON’T cause vomiting or give ipecac syrup.

Step 2. Follow instructions

  • Care for the victim as instructed by Poison Control.

  • Keep the victim as calm as possible.

  • If the victim needs medical help, bring the container or the poison with the victim to the hospital.

Poisonous bites

Step 1. Reduce circulation

  • Keep the victim still with the injury positioned below his or her heart level. This slows the spread of poison throughout the body.

  • DON’T use a tourniquet.

  • DON’T apply ice.

  • DON’T cut the bite.

  • DON’T try to suck venom out with your mouth.

Step 2. Call 911 or seek medical help

  • Perform rescue breathing or CPR, if needed.

  • If you are traveling through an area where a poisonous snake bite is possible, wear protective boots and clothing. Extractor kits do not work and are not recommended.

For the best response when calling Poison Control, know as much of this information as possible:

  • The label on the medication bottle or chemical container or the name or description of the plant

  • The amount swallowed

  • The length of time since the poisoning

  • The victim’s age, weight, and symptoms

  • The travel time to the nearest emergency room


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