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Symptoms of Poisoning, Exposures & Treatments

The symptoms of poisoning can vary greatly depending on the type, length, quantity and age of the person involved. While the most common exposures to poison are personal and occur at home, other incidents include occupational and environmental exposures.

Symptoms of Poisoning

While signs and symptoms of poisoning can vary depending on the type and other factors, there are a few common symptoms to be aware of:

  • Dizziness
  • Disorientation
  • Vomiting
  • Trouble breathing
  • Pain
  • Headaches
  • Feeling faint

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these poison symptoms or has been exposed to a poison, you should call the Poison Center at 1.800.222.1222 immediately. Not all exposures result in instant symptoms, so it is very important to seek timely medical attention.

Treatment Options

At NorthShore, our Medical Toxicology team will tailor poisoning treatment options based on your symptoms and the type of poison exposure. As poison treatment recommendations vary, we recommend scheduling a medical evaluation with one of our experts.

Personal Exposure

The majority of exposures—nearly 90% according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers—occur in the home. Personal exposures are typically caused by ingestion and involve drug interactions, food poisoning, acute overdose of prescribed or non-prescribed medications, plants and household products (cosmetics, cleaning supplies and personal care items).

Depending on the type of personal exposure, standard poisoning treatment options will be different. However, in most cases, treatment can be achieved by calling your Poison Center and getting help over the phone.

Occupational Exposure

Occupational exposures can be very similar in nature to personal and environmental exposures. Common exposures at the workplace—most frequently occurring through inhalation and dermal contact—include:

  • Hazardous materials (such as solvents and asbestos)
  • Chemical spills (such as acids)
  • Heavy metals (such as arsenic and lead)

Interventional options for occupational exposures may include decontamination procedures, antidote administration or Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) evaluation. Instructions about what to do if exposed to hazardous materials and chemicals are typically listed on the packaging, item or Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). However, it is best to contact the Poison Center for more information and assistance, especially if symptoms of poisoning are experienced.

Environmental Exposure

Environmental exposures can differ greatly—ranging from pollutants and industrial/chemical spills to venomous insect and animal bites, molds and plant exposures such as poison ivy and poison oak.

The type of poison treatment necessary for an outdoor exposure will depend on what contact you had with the poison. Most environmental exposures are routed through air, water (especially well water) and soil. In nearly all cases, it is best to contact the Poison Center for more information.

There are many over-the-counter poisoning treatment options for environmental exposures such as insect bites, poison ivy and poison oak. Before purchasing or utilizing any of these products, it is best to talk with your physician.