Dr. Oz's Emergency Handbook: Poisoning

Not all poisons are plainly marked with a skull and crossbones. In fact, many of the seemingly harmless household products we use every day are poisonous, which is why poisoning is the #1 cause of death by injury in America’s homes. Dr. Oz wants to arm you with the facts, that’s why he’s sharing the secrets of the ER. Learn how to think clearly, act fast and save lives.

Dr. Oz's Emergency Handbook: Poisoning

In order to know when and how to treat someone who has come into contact with a poisonous substance, you must first be familiar with what a poison is. Poison comes in 4 forms: solids (such as pills or tablets), liquids (such as gasoline), sprays (such as household spray cleansers) and gases (such as carbon monoxide). Some examples of common poisons are:

  • Alcohol
  • Prescription, over-the-counter and illegal drugs
  • Food supplements, like vitamins, minerals and herbal products
  • Nail polish and nail polish remover
  • Mouthwash
  • Drain and toilet bowl cleaners
  • Bites and stings, including snake and spider bites and wasp and bee stings

Additionally, poisons can be identified if it causes harm to someone when:


  1. Used in the wrong way.
  2. Used by the wrong person (in the case of prescription medicines).
  3. Used in the wrong amount.

Make sure the phone numbers you need to know in case of a poison emergency are posted near kitchen and bathroom telephones. Visit the Poison Help website for a free magnet.


When to Call For Help
If you believe a poisoning may have occurred, follow these basic first steps. Remember, suspected poisonings should be treated as serious, life-threatening situations – because they are. DO NOT wait to call! If you call right away, the problem can often be solved over the phone. Do not wait for signs of poisoning. Here’s what to do if:


The person inhaled poison.

  • Get to fresh air right away.
  • Call Poison Help, 1-800-222-1222.

The person has poison on the skin.

  • Take off any clothing the poison touched. If skin is injured, cover with a clean cloth.
  • Rinse skin with running water for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Call Poison Help, 1-800-222-1222.

The person has poison in the eyes.

  • Rinse eyes with running water for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Call Poison Help, 1-800-222-1222.

The person has ingested poison.

  • If the victim is conscious, call Poison Help, 1-800-222-1222. If unconscious, call 911.
  • If they are vomiting, wrap cloth around fingers and clear the airway.
  • If they haven’t vomited, do not make the victim throw up. Strong poisons that can burn the throat during ingestion can also burn the through during regurgitation.


What You Need to Know
First, remember to stay calm. Not all substances are poisonous and not all contact with a substance results in a poisoning. Arm yourself with information and be ready to communicate the following information when you’re on the phone with the experts:

  • Be sure to have the suspected substance with you. You will need vital information printed on its label.
  • Know the victim’s age, weight and any additional health problems or conditions.
  • How the product contacted the person (by mouth, by inhaling, through the skin, or through the eyes)
  • How long the product was in contact with the victim.
  • What, if any, first aid has already been provided.
  • Whether the victim has vomited.
  • Your location.
  • How long it would take you to transport the victim to get to a hospital.

Rules to Prevent Poisoning

  • Choose products in containers that are hard for children to open and replace the cap tightly after using a product. Remember: no container can promise to keep children out.
  • Keep all household products, other strong chemicals, and medicines locked up and out of sight.
  • When products are in use, never let young children out of your sight. IMPORTANT: Take the child or product with you when answering the phone or doorbell.
  • Keep products in the containers they came in.
  • Leave product labels on all products and carefully read the label before using a product.
  • Take and give medicine in a well-lit area. Check the dosage every time.
  • Avoid taking medicine in front of children. Never call medicine candy, especially gummy vitamins that are made to mimic candy.
  • Clean out the medicine cabinet often. Get rid of medicines that have expired or are no longer needed.

Your Parent Has Dementia: What to Talk to Their Doctor About

Make sure all their doctors are aware of all the medications she is taking.

Q: My mom is 94 and has dementia. She is taking a whole medicine cabinet-full of medications and I think they actually make her fuzzier. How should I talk to her various doctors about what she is taking and if she can get off some of the meds? — Gary R., Denver, Colorado

A: Many dementia patients are taking what docs call a "polypharmacy" — three or more medications that affect their central nervous system. And we really don't know how that mixture truly affects each individual person.

A new study in JAMA Network that looked at more than 1 million Medicare patients found almost 14% of them were taking a potentially harmful mix of antidepressants, antipsychotics, antiepileptics, benzodiazepines such as Valium and Ativan, nonbenzodiazepine benzodiazepine receptor agonist hypnotics such as Ambien or Sonata, and opioids. And almost a third of those folks were taking five or more such medications. The most common medication combination included an antidepressant, an antiepileptic, and an antipsychotic. Gabapentin was the most common medication — often for off-label uses, such as to ease chronic pain or treat psychiatric disorders, according to the researchers from the University of Michigan.

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