How do I know if I am poisonous


Brief overview

  • What is poisoning? The harmful effects of a foreign or toxic substance on the body.
  • How can poisoning be recognized? Depending on the type of poisoning, e.g. nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, dizziness, seizures, unconsciousness, cardiovascular failure, respiratory failure
  • What to do in the event of poisoning In the event of (suspected) poisoning, you should always inform a doctor or an emergency doctor!


  • Some poisonings are not very dangerous, while others can even be fatal. Laypeople can hardly assess this, which is why a doctor must always be alerted if poisoning is suspected!
  • If you get poisoned, stay away from home remedies! For example, do not give the affected person any milk to drink, otherwise the poison may get into the blood even faster.
  • In the event of poisoning, doctors now rarely induce vomiting - because it can only remove a small amount of poison from the body and it also involves risks (e.g. vomit can get into the windpipe or a corrosive substance sloshes through the esophagus a second time). Laypeople should never induce vomiting in those affected!

Poisoning: what is it?

Poisoning (medical intoxication) is damage to the body caused by contact with a poisonous substance. Contact can come about through inhalation, swallowing or through skin and mucous membranes (such as the eyes or nose).

Some substances that cause poisoning are poisonous even in small quantities. Others, on the other hand, are normally non-toxic (e.g. shaving foam, toothpaste, blackboard chalk, vitamin supplements) and only become dangerous in larger quantities.

Almost all substances can be toxic in the appropriate dosage - "the dose makes the poison" (Paracelsus).

Accidental and Intentional Poisoning

Unintentional poisoning can occur, for example, if your child drinks from the supposed soda bottle in which you keep household cleaning agents or furniture polish. Mixing up drugs or handling toxic chemicals can also be the cause of accidental poisoning.

Intentional poisoning is often used to kill or at least harm yourself or someone else. This can happen through ingestion of a poison or an overdose of medication. Sometimes people are intentionally poisoned to make them defenseless (e.g. for rape or robbery).

Types of poisoning

The main types of poisoning are:

Food poisoning: They arise from eating spoiled food. The exact cause of the symptoms are, for example, toxins, bacteria or parasites in the food.

Consumption of mushrooms that are not sufficiently heated or that are poisonous can also trigger symptoms of poisoning. You can read more about this in the article on mushroom poisoning.

Alcohol poisoning: If someone ingests large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time, alcohol intoxication results. The consequences depend on the extent of the poisoning. A blood alcohol level of five per thousand or more is generally fatal. By the way: alcohol is not only found in wine, beer & Co., but also in some cosmetic products, disinfectants and cleaning agents, for example.

Plant poisoning: They often occur in (small) children who inadvertently put colorful berries or leaves in their mouths. Ingredients such as essential oils or toxins are then responsible for the symptoms of poisoning. Even adults can get plant poisoning, for example if they accidentally pick and consume the similar-looking leaves of lily of the valley in search of wild garlic.

Drug poisoning: They are caused by an overdose of a drug. This can happen accidentally, for example in the elderly. Often, drug poisoning is also intentional - as a suicide attempt.

Poisoning with gases: When inhaling various gases (e.g. carbon monoxide) symptoms of poisoning can also occur. One example is smoke gas poisoning (intoxication through inhalation of smoke or combustion gases).

Chemical poisoning: This includes, among other things, eye burns from acids, but also skin damage from contact with toxic substances. Chemical poisoning is also present if children swallow toilet cleaners or dishwasher tablets while playing, for example.

Heavy metal poisoning: Usually it is a creeping intoxication - those affected unconsciously ingest small amounts of a toxic heavy metal (such as iron, lead, mercury, copper) that accumulates in the body over a longer period of time. This can happen, for example, through contaminated food (e.g. fish with mercury pollution) or through drinking water from lead pipes.

Poisoning: how to recognize?

The symptoms of poisoning depend, among other things, on the type and dose of the toxic substance. In addition, people can react differently to the same toxic substance. General symptoms of intoxication are, for example:

  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • stomach pain
  • Headache, dizziness
  • Agitation, hallucinations, confusion
  • increased or decreased heart rate
  • Pallor, reddening of the skin, feeling hot
  • shock
  • Breathing problems up to respiratory arrest
  • Cardiovascular failure

Further symptoms can occur depending on the toxicity, such as seizures, saliva and tears, paralysis and sweating. If the poison came into contact with the skin, it can react with a rash and blistering - and with chronic contact with an inflammation (dermatitis). Eye contact with poisons causes pain and reddening of the eyes. In addition, the patient no longer sees very well or nothing at all in the affected eyes.

Symptoms of poisoning usually appear shortly after exposure to the toxin. With some substances, however, it can take some time before the first symptoms appear (for example because a metabolic product of the substance in question only triggers symptoms of poisoning in the body).

Poisoning: what to do

What you should do if you want to help someone who has been poisoned always depends on what they have poisoned themselves with, what symptoms they are showing and how severe the poisoning is.

At a Intestinal tract poisoning (e.g. with alcohol, medication, poisonous or spoiled food, poisonous plants, chemicals) you should take the following first aid measures:

  • Reassure the victim, especially if they are a child, and keep calm yourself.
  • Call the emergency doctor or - if the person concerned shows no signs of poisoning (yet), although suspected poisoning - the poison emergency number for your region. The staff there will tell you what you can or should do.
  • If the person concerned is responsive, open their mouth and try to wipe out any remains of what has been ingested with a finger.
  • Keep all leftovers that could be the cause of the poisoning (e.g. food leftovers, fungus remains, tablets, parts of plants). Take this - and / or vomit, if necessary - with you to the doctor or hospital so that the doctor can determine what the poisoning is.
  • If the victim has to vomit on their own, you can help them by supporting their head or stroking their back soothingly.

Do not provoke vomiting under any circumstances - especially not after a seizure, if the person affected is unconscious, cannot breathe easily (danger of suffocation!) Or has swallowed corrosive or foaming substances such as acids, alkalis, household cleaners.

At a Gas poisoning you should first rescue the person concerned out of the danger zone (provided you are not endangering yourself!) and bring them into the fresh air. Only then are further first aid measures advisable - that is, calm the patient down, place him on his side in the event of unconsciousness and, if necessary, revive him.

Does anyone Chemicals (e.g. acid) in your eyes or on your skin, rinse the area thoroughly with cold, clean water for at least ten minutes. If the eyes are affected, keep the eyelid open as much as possible and always rinse from nose to temple. Do not remove any clothing soaked with the chemical from the person affected - you could possibly tear the skin underneath with you!

Poisoning: when to see a doctor?

Not every poisoning requires medical treatment. However, a layperson cannot assess which poisoning is comparatively harmless and which poisoning can cause serious damage or even death. Therefore, you should consult an expert even if you suspect poisoning: Take the person affected to the doctor or alert the emergency doctor. At the very least, you should call a poison control center (if you suspect someone has come into contact with something poisonous but is not yet showing any symptoms).

Poisoning: medical examinations

In order to initiate the correct treatment, the doctor needs to find out more about the possible cause and severity of the poisoning. To do this, he will first in a conversation Obtain important background information (anamnesis): If possible, ask the patient what substances he has come into contact with (through ingestion, inhalation, contact, etc.). He also asks how much, for example, a suspicious meal was eaten or a chemical was swallowed. It is also important when that was and how soon which symptoms appeared. If the patient is not responsive or too young, you may be able to provide the necessary information as a first aider.

It is also helpful for the doctor if you, as the first aider, have secured the patient's poisonous meal, medication, chemical, and / or vomit. This makes it easier to determine the exact cause of the poisoning.

A physical examination (including blood pressure measurement, etc.) gives the doctor information about the general condition of the patient. In addition, there may be indications of the type of poisoning. For example, some toxins change the smell of the air in a characteristic way. And any injection sites can indicate that the patient has injected drugs.

Further examinations that can be useful are, for example:

  • Blood analysis: The cause of the poisoning (drugs, carbon monoxide, etc.) can often be detected in the blood. In addition, blood values ​​often provide information on possible disorders of organ functions (such as the liver or kidneys) as a result of the poisoning.
  • Urine test: This examination can be used to detect drugs, for example.
  • Stool examination: The doctor has a stool sample analyzed if he suspects salmonella poisoning, for example.
  • X-ray examination: Sometimes the cause of poisoning can be seen on X-rays, for example metals such as lead, swallowed drug packets (with drug couriers), swallowed batteries or animal remains from the attack of a poisonous animal (e.g. poisonous teeth).

Poisoning: treatment by the doctor

Poisoning does not always require medical treatment. If so, a hospital stay may be necessary. During the treatment, the patient's state of health is monitored or stabilized and the body is supported in excreting the absorbed poison more quickly (usually via the urine) or in deactivating it (usually via the liver).

Ensure body function

In the event of poisoning, the doctor will ensure that the person's heart continues to beat, that breathing does not stop and that the blood pressure remains stable. It may be necessary to connect it to certain devices (e.g. ventilator, cardiovascular monitor). In the case of kidney failure, the patient may be given a blood wash (dialysis). In very severe cases in which the liver and / or kidneys have become permanently inoperable as a result of the poisoning, an organ transplant may be necessary.

Prevent the ingestion and spread of the poison

The doctor may give activated charcoal if the victim has swallowed poison. It binds the toxic substance in the digestive tract so that it can no longer get into the blood. However, activated charcoal does not work against all poisons, it does not help with many household chemicals or alcohol. In addition, it cannot do anything against the poison that has already passed into the blood.

If poison is ingested orally, it can also be useful to pump out the victim's stomach. The doctor will do this if the poison is very dangerous or if the patient's general health is poor.

Administer antidote

For some poisons (e.g. paracetamol, heroin, some snake poisons) there are special antidotes. Their administration can be useful in severe poisoning. Often, however, the person affected recovers on their own.


Depending on the type and extent of the poisoning, further measures may be useful. If, for example, toxic substances get into the eyes or on the skin of the person concerned, the doctor rinses the respective parts of the body with plenty of (table salt) water.

If the person concerned has tried to commit suicide with a poisonous substance, psychological support is offered in addition to medical help.

Read more about the therapies

Read more about therapies that can help here:

Prevent poisoning

Various precautionary measures reduce the risk of accidental poisoning. They are especially advisable in households with children:

  • Keep medication in a place out of the reach of children. A lockable medicine cabinet is best suited for this.
  • Lock away medication after each use, even if you need it several times a day (by you or someone else in your household).
  • Never leave medicines lying around. Colorful pills, in particular, are very similar to candy, so that small children can easily access them.
  • Always keep household chemicals such as cleaning agents and detergents out of the reach of children, preferably in a lockable cupboard.
  • Never pour chemicals into food packaging, e.g. B. in a juice bottle. If so, then label the container clearly and in large format!
  • In general, always clearly mark containers with chemicals or other poisons and make sure that closures are childproof.
  • Don't get distracted if you've just opened household chemicals. Reseal the bottle or container when you turn to other children, answer a call, or the doorbell rings.
  • If smokers live in the household: Never leave cigarette ends and packs, loose tobacco etc. lying around. Children are curious and imitate a lot of adults or put something in their mouths quickly. Tobacco residues can cause poisoning.
  • Keep alcoholic beverages out of the reach of children. Even small amounts of alcohol are very dangerous for small children. It is best to lock away alcoholic beverages so that older children are not tempted to try them.
  • Educate your children about the dangers of medicines, household chemicals, poisonous plants, mushrooms, cigarettes and alcohol at an early stage, but in an age-appropriate manner.
  • Discuss and review measures to prevent poisoning in other households in which your child is frequent, e. B. with the grandparents or the childminder.

Author & source information