A poison is any substance (solid, liquid or gas) which can cause damage if it enters the body in sufficient quantities. A poison can be swallowed, breathed in, absorbed through the skin or injected.
Poisons can cause seizures, blurred vision, a major allergic reaction or be fatal. If you suspect a child has been exposed to a potentially harmful substance, be cautious and get the child seen by a medical professional as soon as possible. The key to poisoning is really prevention. Read our advice on this here.
What to Do
If you suspect a child has swallowed or taken a harmful substance, calmly establish how much has gone and if any has been swallowed.
If the child is perfectly well, call 111 (they have access to the poisons database and can give clear and helpful advice) or call the emergency services if you are seriously worried and give as much information as you can.
If a berry has been eaten, photograph and take a leaf from the plant to help it to be identified. Don’t let your child run around as it will increase their metabolism and could speed up any reaction. If the poison was a tablet or substance contained in packaging, keep as much evidence as possible of what was taken and take the packaging with you to hospital.
If the child shows any change in behaviour, starts to vomit or becomes drowsy, call an ambulance and explain clearly what has happened. Do not take them to hospital in a car unless advised to do so by the emergency services, in case they deteriorate on the way to hospital.
Cleaning products and dishwasher tablets contain strong alkalis and burn if swallowed. If you suspect a child has eaten a dishwasher tablet or drunk cleaning product, stay as calm as possible and establish what has happened. Read the advice on the packaging. Wipe away any obvious residue from around the child’s mouth and get them to rinse their mouth with milk or water. If they have swallowed the substance, give them small sips of milk or water. Phone for an ambulance and give them as much information as you can.
- Do not make the child sick as the substance will have burnt them as they swallowed it and vomiting will burn them again.
- If they begin to lose consciousness and you need to give CPR, protect yourself from the corrosive substance using a face shield.
- If a child has eaten a button battery, they will need to be taken to A&E for an X-ray. A battery will burn through the intestinal wall and you may not be aware there is a problem until the child becomes visibly unwell.
First Aid for Life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made or actions taken based on this information. The best way to be prepared for action in an emergency is to attend a practical first aid course or do one online.