Quick Tips on Dealing with Poisons and Antidotes
First, let me explain what toxicology is. This is the study of poisons including their actions, adverse effects and treatment of conditions that they produce.
These poisons include:
- Industrial or pharmacologic substances
- A variety of industrial solvents
- Heavy metals
- Gases and common household chemicals can be dangerous poisons.
However, drugs that are used clinically may also be poisons in high doses.
Acute exposure to a toxic substance is likely to produce different symptoms comparing to symptoms produced by chronic exposure to lower concentrations.
In addition, antidotes have been developed for some poisons. They act by either preventing absorption or by inactivating or antagonizing the actions of the poisons.
Nitrogen, Carbon (II) oxide and methane are inert gases that can cause a decrease in the availability of oxygen to the lungs resulting in hypoxia.
In addition, there are other soluble irritants of the respiratory tract which include hydrochloric acid, sulphur (IV) oxide and ammonia.
Systemic toxic substances are absorbed by inhalation or through the skin. Example:
a.) Cyanide – Blocks oxygen transfer to tissues and causes cytotoxic hypoxia.
Now, how do you diagnose this?
Here is how: Your patient’s breath will have the characteristic odor of bitter almond.
Therefore, TREATMENT is through administering Amyl nitrate by inhalation accompanied by intravenous (IV) sodium nitrite.
b.) Carbon (II) oxide – Basically, this is the most common cause accidental and suicidal poisoning. This is an oduorless, colourless and tasteless gas.
Furthermore, carbon monoxide has an affinity for haemoglobin that is about 220 times more than that compared to oxygen. It is absorbed and excreted by the lungs.
Remove your patient from the air containing carbon monoxide. Oxygen (100%) should be administered.
In spite of that, your patient may also require treatment for the resultant hypertension, metabolic acidosis and cardiac effects.
c.) Organic Solvents – They are volatile and can become an inhalation hazard especially in an industrial environment.
Actually, they are fat-soluble and can be absorbed through the skin, accumulating in both fat and nervous tissue.
Organs solvents include:
HOW TO TREAT IT
Remove the individual from further exposure to that solvent.
d.) Heavy Metal Intoxication
Here, all the heavy metals bind to a variety of macromolecules in membranes and the cytosol.
However, since heavy metals are not easily to metabolize, they may accumulate in the body thereby inactivating important enzymes and disrupt membranes.
LEAD – Heavy metal poisoning is most commonly caused by lead especially in large urban areas. We can find these in paints and exhaust dust from vehicles.
Signs and Symptoms
- Constipation and Anorexia.
- A persistent metabolic taste.
- Deposition of lead in the bones.
- Anorexia, since lead is a potent inhibitor of haemoglobin synthesis.
- Lead encephalopathy (inflammation of brain membranes)
- Administration of Calcium disodium ethylene diamine tetra-acetic acid (CaNa2EDTA) intravenously in combination with dimercaprol.
- Oral penicillamine.
MERCURY– Toxicity of mercury can occur by inhalation, skin penetration or ingestion of substances containing mercury.
Signs and symptoms
a.) Acute intoxication can result in cardiovascular collapse.
b.) Neurologic manifestation including irritability, tremors and psychological disturbances.
c.) A brown discolouration in the eyes.
d.) Gingivitis and stomatitis (inflammation of the gums and GIT)
e.) Progressive renal damage.
TREATMENT: Health professionals usually use dimercaprol in the treatment of mercury poison.
ETHANOL – It accounts for approximately 1/4 of all drug poisoning each year.
Signs and symptoms
- Blurred vision
- Gouty arthritis
- Liver cyrrosis
- Flushing and palpitations.
- Hypoventilation characterized by shallow breathing.
- Hypoglycemia (decrease in blood sugar level)
Ethanol overdose consists of intensive, supportive care with special attention to preventing hypoglycemia.
Finally, when dealing with poisons, antidotes or the clinically used drugs, make sure you keep them safe. Poisons especially, must be tightly corked. However, make sure the laboratory safety procedures and/or measures are displayed and followed promptly.