First Aid Measures To Use When Person Takes Poison
( Originally Published 1936 )
Poisoning arises as a domestic emergency, frequently from the accidental ingestion of many substances, such as roach powder, antiseptics, plant sprays, rat poison and, in the case of children, from swallowing cathartic pills containing strychnine.
In the treatment of poisoning of this kind, the three things which are naturally indicated are, first, to eliminate all poison possible from the body; second, general methods of stimulation, and, third, the use of an antidote. I do not emphasize the use of the antidote here, because people often lose valuable time trying to remember what the right antidote is, when the general methods could be employed with much more advantage and with better prospect of good results.
The first thing to do is to empty the stomach, which can be done either by stimulating the back of the throat with some object such as a feather, or preferably with the finger, and the use of emetics. Common domestic emetics easy to obtain are a quart of warm water, soap suds, or a teaspoon of mustard in a glass of warm water.
It is well also to attempt to get rid of excess poison by inducing sweating, which may be done by wrapping the patient in a blanket with hot water bag, and also by cleaning out the lower bowels by enema.
Stimulation may be done by the use of warmth, aromatic spirits of ammonia—a half a teaspoon in a half glass of water—a cup of hot coffee, or some alcoholic stimulant such as whiskey or brandy. Antidotes are of two kinds—one is a chemical which will neutralize the poison, and the other is physiological which will counteract its effects. It is not likely that in the case of a domestic emergency a physiological antidote will be at hand before the doctor arrives. Chemical antidotes easily found in any household are eggs, milk and flour paste. Three eggs beaten up in a pint of milk will absorb and neutralize a great many poisons.
After the stomach and the bowel have been emptied and the patient has begun to sweat, it cannot do any harm to give him all the water he can drink, preferably warm. The water will wash out a great deal of the poison which has gotten into the blood stream, by way of the sweat glands and the kidneys.
These simple and useful methods can all be applied by anyone with a cool head in a domestic emergency, while waiting for the doctor to arrive.