A poisoning may or may not be obvious. Sometimes the source of a poisoning can be easily identified -- an open bottle of medication or a spilled bottle of household cleaner. Look for these signs if you suspect a poisoning emergency:
1. Burns or redness around the mouth and lips.
2. Breath that smells like chemicals.
3. Burns, stains, and odors on the person, his or her clothing, or on the furniture, floor, rugs, or other objects in the surrounding area.
4. Vomiting, difficulty breathing, or other unexpected symptoms. If you can find no indication of poisoning, do not treat the person for poisoning, but call for emergency help.
If you believe someone has been poisoned, take the following steps:
1. Some products have instructions on the label specifying what to do if a poisoning occurs. If the product known to be the poison has these instructions, follow them.
2. If the person is alert, give him or her a glass of water or milk to drink. The liquid will slow the rate at which the poison is absorbed by the body. But if the person is weak, lethargic, unconscious, or having seizures, do not give him or her anything by mouth.
3. If you cannot identify the poison or there are no instructions on the product label, call your local poison control center for instructions. Keep the number near your telephone.
4. Certain poisons should be vomited; others should not. If you do not know the identity of the substance swallowed, do not induce vomiting. Overall, you should not induce vomiting unless directed to by a poison control authority or your physician.
5. If you are told to induce vomiting in the person who has swallowed poison, use syrup of ipecac to do so. An alternative method to induce vomiting is touching the back of the throat of the person to initiate gagging. If you have no other alternative, have the person drink a glass of warm water containing 1 teaspoon of dried mustard or 3 teaspoons of salt. After the person has vomited, give a glass of water or milk.
6. If the poison has spilled on the person's clothing, skin, or eyes, remove the clothing and flush the skin or eyes with cool or lukewarm water for 20 minutes.
7. Get immediate medical attention. If you have identified the poison, take the container with you.