First Aid Training - Swallowed poisons


Chemicals that are swallowed may harm the digestive tract, or cause more widespread damage if they enter the bloodstream and are transported to other parts of the body.

Hazardous chemicals include common household substances. For example, bleach, dishwasher detergent, and paint stripper are poisonous or corrosive if swallowed. Drugs, whether they are prescribed or bought over the counter, are also potentially harmful if they are taken in overdose. The effects of poisoning depend on the substance that has been swallowed.

Recognition features

Depends on the poison, but there may be:

  • Vomiting, sometimes bloodstained.
  • Impaired consciousness.
  • Pain or burning sensation.
  • Empty containers in the vicinity.
  • History of ingestion/exposure.


Your aims:

  • To maintain the airway, breathing, and circulation.
  • To remove any contaminated clothing.
  • To identify the poison.
  • To arrange urgent removal to hospital.

If the casualty is conscious:

  • Ask them what they have swallowed.
  • Try to reassure them.
  • Dial 999 for an ambulance
  • Give as much information as possible about the swallowed poison. This information will assist doctors to give appropriate treatment once the casualty reaches hospital.

If the casualty becomes unconscious:

  • Open the airway and check breathing
  • Be prepared to give chest compressions and rescue breaths if necessary.
  • Place them into the recovery position if the casualty is unconscious but breathing normally.
  • Use a face shield or pocket mask for rescue breathing if there are any chemicals on the casualty's mouth.
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