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Insecticide poisoning

Definition

Insecticide is a chemical that kills bugs. Insecticide poisoning occurs when someone swallows or breathes in this substance.

This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

See also:

Alternative Names

Organophosphate poisoning; Carbamate poisoning

Poisonous Ingredient

Most household bug sprays contain chemicals called pyrethrins. These chemicals are generally not harmful, but can cause life-threatening breathing problems if breathed in.

Industrial insecticides, often found in household garages and greenhouses, contain many dangerous substances, including:

  • Carbamates
  • Organophosphates
  • Paradichlorobenzenes (mothballs)

Where Found

Various insecticides (bug killers)

Symptoms

Symptoms of pyrethrin poisoning:

  • Lungs and airways
  • Nervous system
  • Skin

Symptoms of organophosphate or carbamate poisoning:

  • Bladder and kidneys
  • Eyes, ears, nose, and throat
  • Gastrointestinal
  • Heart and blood
  • Lungs and airways
  • Nervous system
  • Skin

Note: Serious poisoning can occur from just touching the organophosphate without gloves or without washing hands soon after exposure. Large amounts of the chemical soak through the skin unless you are protected. Life-threatening paralysis and death can occur very quickly.

Symptoms of paradichlorobenzene poisoning:

  • Gastrointestinal
  • Muscles

Note: Paradichlorobenzene mothballs are not very toxic. They have replaced the more toxic camphor and naphthalene types.

Home Treatment

Seek immediate medical help. Do NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care professional.

If the chemical is on the skin or in the eyes, flush with lots of water for at least 15 minutes.

If the person breathed in the poison, immediately move him or her to fresh air.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • Patient's age, weight, and condition
  • Name of the product (ingredients and strengths, if known)
  • Time it was swallowed
  • Amount swallowed

Poison Control, or a local emergency number

The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.

This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

See: Poison control center - emergency number

What to expect at the emergency room

The health care provider will measure and monitor your vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. You may receive:

  • Activated charcoal
  • Breathing tube
  • Bronchoscopy -- camera down the throat to see burns in the airways and lungs
  • Endoscopy -- camera down the throat to see burns in the esophagus and the stomach
  • Fluids by IV
  • Medicine (antidote) to reverse the effect of the poison
  • Oxygen
  • Tube through the mouth into the stomach to empty the stomach (gastric lavage )
  • Surgical removal of burned skin (skin debridement)
  • Washing of the skin (irrigation) -- perhaps every few hours for several days

Expectations (prognosis)

How well you do depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment is received. The faster you get medical help, the better the chance for recovery.

Swallowing such poisons can have severe effects on many parts of the body.

It is a good sign that recovery will occur if patients continue to improve over the first 4 - 6 hours after medical treatment.

Although the symptoms are the same for carbamate and organophosphate, recovery is more difficult for organophosphate.

References

Aaron CK. Organophosphates and carbamates. In: Shannon MW, Borron SW, Burns MJ, eds. . 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 76.

Borron SW. Pyrethins, repellants, and other pesticides. In: Shannon MW, Borron SW, Burns MJ, eds. . 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 77.

Media

    Encyclopedia content is provided as information only and not intended to replace the advice and instruction from your personal physician.