In Red Cross first aid training students will learn to provide care for patients that are victims of poisons. Many first aid attendants and rescuers are hesitant with treating poisoned patients so this blog will hopefully simplify the rescue and provide some confidence and knowledge to would-be rescuers. This article will post the top 5 things to remember when treating poisoned patients.
1. Check the scene. The last thing you want to happen in a scene with poisons involved is for you to also become infected. Remember, poisons don’t’ have to be ingested. They can be inhaled, absorbed and also injected. When you enter a scene when treating for poisons rescuers must check the scene for anything that can harm them. If the scene is unsafe rescuers are taught not to enter and to contact EMS immediately.
2. Contact Poison Control. When you suspect poisons have been involved in the rescue scenario you should contact poison control at 1-800-567-8911. However, that number isn’t as quick and easy to remember as 9-1-1 so if you forget you can contact EMS.
3. Calm the patient. If a patient has been poisoned the foreign substance will coarse through the victim causing possible significant damage throughout. To limit the amount of damage or to slow the poison ask the patient to stay calm and slow down (sitting is a good option). When a patient moves around it helps circulate the poison, if you limit the movement the poison is slowed. With severe poisons every second counts.
4. Read the label. Almost all products that can be poisonous found throughout the home have instructions written on them for what to do in case someone has inhaled, absorbed, injected or ingested them. Read the instructions and follow the recommendations as closely as possible. Many rescuers believe they should induce vomiting immediately or attempt to suck the poison out of the infected area (if its a bite). Vomiting is not always the best coarse of action as it can cause more damage to the patients airway and sucking the poison is a Hollywood myth. Read the label and follow the instructions of poison control and EMS.
5. Stay calm. Many rescuers understandably panic when a friend or family member has been poisoned from a bite, accidental ingestion or chemical spill. Staying calm and keeping cool will help the patient do the same and slow the circulation of the poison. A panicked rescuer can put the patient into shock and worsen the scenario.
To learn more about recognizing and caring for victims of poisonings take a Red Cross or Lifesaving Society first aid and CPR course. For more information about emergency contact numbers in British Columbia visit the ministry website.