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Poisoning can occur when you inhale, swallow, or touch something that makes you very ill. Some poisons can cause death.

Poisoning most often occurs from:

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How to Tell if Someone has Been Poisoned

Signs or symptoms of poisoning may include:

Other health problems can also cause some of these symptoms. However, if you think someone has been poisoned, you should act quickly.

Not all poisons cause symptoms right away. Sometimes symptoms come on slowly or occur hours after exposure.

What to do in Case of Poisoning

The Poison Control Center recommends taking these steps if someone is poisoned.



Call the Poison Control Center emergency number at 1-800-222-1222. Do not wait until the person has symptoms before you call. Try to have the following information ready:

The center is available anywhere in the United States. 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. You can call and talk with a poison expert to find out what to do in case of a poisoning. Often you will be able to get help over the phone and not have to go to the emergency room.

What to Expect at the Emergency Room

If you need to go to the emergency room, the health care provider will check your temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure.

You may need other tests, including:

To keep more poison from being absorbed, you may receive:

Other treatments may include:

How to Prevent Poisoning

Take these steps to help prevent poisoning.

Tell your provider and pharmacist about all the medicines you take.


Latham MD. Toxicology. In: Kleinman K, Mcdaniel L, Molloy M, eds. Harriet Lane Handbook: The Johns Hopkins Hospital. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 3.

Meehan TJ. Approach to the poisoned patient. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 139.

Nelson LS, Ford MD. Acute poisoning. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 102.

Theobald JL, Kostic MA. Poisoning. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 77.


Review Date: 1/29/2022  

Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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