Poisoning – first aid
Each year hundreds of people from all age groups require medical attention for poisoning from products commonly found around the home. These products include medicines (prescription, over-the-counter and veterinary), cleaning products, bleaches, swimming pool products, insecticides, herbicides, radiator coolants, petrol and cosmetics.
Sixty five per cent of the victims of unintentional poisoning are children. Children aged 1 to 3 years are most at risk. Toddlers are inquisitive, highly mobile and tend to put things in their mouths. The most common product involved in poisoning cases is paracetamol (a common painkiller found in almost every household).
Symptoms and treatment for poisoning depend on which poison is taken, how much is taken and how it enters the body.
Call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 (24 hours a day), even if there are no signs of discomfort or poisoning, when someone:
- eats, drinks or inhales a suspected or known poison
- gets a poison on the skin or in the eyes
- is bitten or stung by reptiles, spiders, insects or marine animals.
In case of poisoning
If the victim has collapsed or has stopped breathing, do not delay, phone 000 for an ambulance.
Call the poisons help line on 13 11 26 (24 hours a day) if you, your child, a family member of a friend in contact with a poison.
If a person is unconscious but still breathing:
- Phone 000 for an ambulance.
- Place the person in the recovery position.
If the person is unconscious but not breathing normally:
- Phone 000 for an ambulance.
- Start cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
First aid for poisoning
If the person is alert:
Do not induce vomiting. Immediately rinse the mouth.
Keep the product or medicine container handy.
On the skin
Carefully remove contaminate clothing and wash exposed areas with copious amounts of room temperature water.
In the eye
Rinse eyes with a slow gentle stream of water from a cup or a jug for 10 to 15 minutes. Allow the stream to flow from the inner corner across the eye to the outer corner.
Do not apply eye drops.
Immediately get the person to fresh air, without placing yourself at risk. Loosen any tight clothing at the neck.
Open doors and windows, if indoors.
Avoid breathing fumes. Do not try to rescue an unconscious person, where a highly toxic or unknown gas is involved, without a breathing apparatus. You may become a victim yourself.
Bites and stings
Serious allergic reactions occur in approximately 2% of stings from ants, bees and wasps. Symptoms such as swelling of the face, lips and tongue, breathing difficulties or a generalised rash are potentially life-threatening and require urgent medical attention.
Where to get help
- If the patient has collapsed dial triple zero (000) to call an ambulance in a medical emergency
- Call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 (24 hours a day) if you suspect poisoning.
- See your doctor.
WA Poisons Information Centre
This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.