First Aid

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You may have heard advice on many types of first aid for poisonings. Not all steps can make the situation better. Call the Poison Center with your questions.

  • Do NOT give an unconscious person anything by mouth.
  • Do NOT induce vomiting unless you are told to do so by the Poison Center or a doctor. A strong poison that burns on the way down the throat will also do damage on the way back up.
  • Do NOT try to neutralize the poison with lemon juice or vinegar, or any other substance, unless you are told to do so by the Poison Center or a doctor.
  • Do NOT use any "cure-all" type antidote.
  • Do NOT wait for symptoms to develop if you suspect that someone has been poisoned.

Swallowed Poison or Medication

  • Look for signs that the person was poisoned. Signs can include chemical-smelling breath, burns around the mouth, difficulty breathing, or vomiting. Identify the poison if possible.
  • Look into the victim's mouth and remove all tablets, powder or any material that is present.
  • Examine the mouth for cuts, burns, swelling, unusual coloring or odor.
  • Do not force vomiting. Do not give any food or drink before calling the Poison Center. If the person vomits, clear the person's airway. Wrap a cloth around your fingers before cleaning out the mouth and throat.

Inhaled Poison

  • Do not attempt to rescue a person without notifying emergency help first. If safe to do so, recuse the person from gas, fumes, or smoke. Open windows and doors to remove the fumes
  • Take several deep breaths of fresh air, and then hold your breath as you go in. Hold a wet cloth over your nose and mouth.
  • Do not start fires because some gases are combustible.

Poison on the Skin

  • Brush off all dry poisons and flood involved parts with large amounts of plain water.
  • Wash the skin with bar soap and water and rinse.
  • Remove and discard all affected clothing.

Poison in the Eyes

  • Hold eyelid open and drip room temperature water or normal saline over the bridge of the nose for a full 15 minutes.
  • Wrap a small child in a towel like a papoose, (arms placed at sides under towel).
  •  Place on a flat surface or in a chair so the adult can control the child safely.
  • Do not try to hold child under faucet or in shower or tub.
  • Do not use water under pressure.
  • Do not allow the victim to rub his eyes.
  • Do not use medicated drops, such as Visine.

Bites and Stings

  • Wash bite/sting area well with soap and water. Remove stinger when applicable.
  • If patient develops breathing problems or rash, call 911
  • Venomous snakebites: Remove any jewelry. Do not cut and try to extract the venom. Do not use ice or a tourniquet.
  • Do not try to capture the snake.
  • Apply a cool wet cloth to cover the bite then apply an ice pack or cold compress on the wound intermittently (15 minutes on and 15 minutes off).
  • Never place ice directly on the skin
  • Elevate and rest the wounded area to decrease swelling.
  • Do not use heat.
  • Watch for signs of allergic reactions.


Identify yourself and give your relationship to the patient. Give your phone number in case your call is disconnected.

Describe the patient by name, age, and weight.

If possible, have the container or poison in your hand and identify the best you can:

  • What was taken?
  • When was it taken?
  • How much was taken?
  • How is the patient acting?

Be prepared to answer many questions. This information provides the specialist with pertinent facts needed to develop a specific treatment plan.

It is very important to follow the advice given by the Poison Center or physician.