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Tip of The Week- Poisoning and Toxicology Myths Toxtidbit with Lisa Booze of the Maryland Poison Center

A poison is defined as substance that is harmful to the body. It may be ingested, inhaled, injected or absorbed through the skin. Common poisonous substances include, medications (if taken in high doses), household cleansers, insecticides, illegal drugs, carbon monoxide, plants with toxic substances, spoiled food, and heavy metals like lead and mercury.

In the United States, unintentional poisoning was second only to motor vehicle crashes as a cause of unintentional injury death in 2005. In 2006, more than 700,000 emergency department visits were caused by unintentional poisoning and 25% of these cases resulted to hospitalization or transfer to another facility. In addition, self-harm poisoning was the second-leading cause of ED visits for intentional injury.

The increasing incidence of poisoning is a call for health providers on the immediate measures to perform in the event of poisoning. Since time will be a big factor in the success of treatment for a person who was poisoned, it is important that the interventions to be done are correct.

It has been a common misconception that syrup of ipecac should be used as a first aid treatment or home remedy for poisoning. The idea is to induce vomiting and expel the ingested poisonous substance, but it might do more harm than good. If it was a harsh chemical that was ingested, stimulating emesis would make the chemical move up again,burning the walls of the upper GI tract. Studies have also shown that continuous vomiting caused by ipecac may later result in the child being unable to tolerate activated charcoal or other poison treatments.

The best thing to do is to identify the poisonous substance to be able to institute the appropriate interventions. Activated charcoal binds to poison in the stomach which prevents it from being absorbed in the GI tract. Other measures include gastric lavage (aspiration of gastric contents) and giving antidotes if available.

US Poisoning Fact Sheet

Poisoning by MedlinePlus

American Association of Poison Control Centers


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