Insecticide

Definition 
Poisoning caused by exposure to insecticide.

Poisonous Ingredient 

Household bug sprays are fairly non-toxic chemicals called pyrethrins (although these may cause life-threatening asphyxiation if inhaled). Industrial insecticides (which may OFTEN be found in household garages and greenhouses) contain many extremely toxic, life-threatening materials, including:

     
  • organophosphates  
  • carbamates  
  • paradichlorobenzenes

Many new and extremely toxic insecticides are continuously being developed.

Where Found 

various insecticides

Symptoms 
for organophosphate:

     
  • body as a whole       o weakness       o sweating       o convulsions       o increased urination  
  • respiratory       o difficulty breathing  
  • eyes, ears, nose, and throat       o small pupils       o increased tearing       o increased salivation  
  • skin       o blue lips and fingernails  
  • gastrointestinal       o loss of appetite       o abdominal cramps       o diarrhea       o nausea and/or vomiting  
  • nervous system       o headache       o anxiety       o dizziness       o coma

Note: Serious poisoning can occur from just handling the organophosphate without gloves or without washing hands soon after exposure. Significant amounts are absorbed through the skin unless proper precautions are observed. Life-threatening paralysis and death can occur very quickly.

for carbamate:

     
  • body as a whole       o weakness       o sweating       o convulsions       o increased urination  
  • respiratory       o difficulty breathing  
  • eyes, ears, nose, and throat       o small pupils       o increased tearing       o increased salivation  
  • skin       o blue lips and fingernails  
  • gastrointestinal       o loss of appetite       o abdominal cramps       o diarrhea       o nausea and/or vomiting  
  • nervous system       o headache       o anxiety       o dizziness       o coma

Note: Serious poisoning can occur from just handling the carbamate without gloves or without washing hands soon after exposure. Significant amounts are absorbed through the skin unless proper precautions are observed. Life-threatening symptoms may occur very quickly.

for paradichlorobenzene:

     
  • body as a whole       o convulsions       o muscle spasms  
  • gastrointestinal       o abdominal pain       o nausea and/or vomiting       o diarrhea

for pyrethrum (pyrethrin):

     
  • respiratory       o asphyxiation (in high doses)  
  • skin       o irritation       o skin redness or inflammation  
  • nervous system       o convulsions       o coma

Home Treatment 
Seek emergency medical care immediately. If the product is on the skin, wash area thoroughly for at least 15 minutes. Mouth to mouth resuscitation may be necessary if the person stops breathing. These substances can be lethal very quickly.

Before Calling Emergency 
Determine the following information:

     
  • the patient’s age, weight, and condition  
  • the name of the product (ingredients and strengths, if known)  
  • the time it was swallowed  
  • the amount swallowed

Poison Control, or a local emergency number 
See Poison Control centers for telephone numbers and addresses. Take the container with you to the emergency room.

What to expect at the emergency room 

Some or all of the following procedures may be performed:

     
  • For swallowed poison       o Placement of a tube down the nose and into the stomach (a nasogastric tube, or an NG tube) to wash out the stomach       o Activated charcoal administration       o Endoscopy - the placement of a camera down the throat to see the extent of burns to the esophagus and the stomach       o Give IV fluids       o Admission to the hospital       o Give an antidote       o Treat the symptoms  
  • For inhaled poisons       o A breathing tube may need to be inserted       o Oxygen       o Admission to the hospital or to the intensive care unit       o Bronchoscopy (inserting a camera down the throat into the airway to evaluate the extent of burns to the airway and lungs)  
  • For skin exposure       o Irrigation (washing of the skin), perhaps every few hours for several days       o Skin debridement (surgical removal of burned skin)       o Admission or transfer to a hospital that specializes in burn care

Expectations (prognosis) 
If an antidote is given quickly, recovery is likely. Time to treatment is critical. Continued improvement of symptoms over the first 4 to 6 hours under proper medical care usually indicates that recovery will occur. Although the symptoms are the same for carbamate and organophosphate, the carbamate has a more favorable outcome.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 4, 2012
by Harutyun Medina, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.