Poisoning – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment


Poisoning or intoxication is a pathological dysfunction caused by various poisons (toxins). These toxins usually penetrate the human bloodstream and can cause serious illnesses. If left untreated, poisoning can often lead to death. From this it can be concluded that in the event of poisoning, a doctor or hospital should be consulted as soon as possible.

What is poisoning?

Poisoning is defined as the intake of a toxic substance in quantities that can be life-threatening or at least very hazardous to health and lead to complications and permanent damage. Any substance that has a significant negative effect on human health and can, for example, lead to the failure or impairment of organs, can be considered as a trigger for poisoning. These circumstances usually result in the life-threatening circumstances of poisoning.

Typical and frequently occurring poisonings in humans are mushroom poisoning and food poisoning . But poisoning from contaminated water is not uncommon. The venom of a snake or other animal can also cause poisoning in humans.


Each substance that can cause poisoning affects different chemical circuits in the human body. The basic process begins with the toxin interrupting the biochemical reaction process, for example by binding to a receptor instead of the body’s own substance and preventing the process from working. This form of poisoning often occurs when the toxin paralyzes nerves – causing serious damage such as cardiac arrest or respiratory arrest, which can be a cause of death.Other toxins are harmful because, for example, they block muscle cells and ensure that the heart and respiratory muscles fail and the person dies as a result. Poisoning always occurs when there are sufficient pollutants in the human body to cause symptoms. For some substances, even the smallest amounts are sufficient, such as in the case of botulinum toxin. However, poisoning can also be caused by other substances that are not poisonous per se, but can cause poisoning if they pollute the body in too large a quantity – these include, for example, iron , arsenic and ethanol.

Frequent poisoning

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Depending on the type of poisoning, the symptoms that occur can be very different. Symptoms of the gastrointestinal tract such as stomach pain , nausea and vomiting as well as diarrhea often indicate poisoning . Headaches can occur as accompanying complaints . In addition, symptoms of poisoning include dizziness , sweating and cramps as well as circulatory collapse.

Toxins acting through the skin or mucous membranes often cause paralysis and increased salivation . A rash can form. Depending on the toxic substance, signs of poisoning appear at different rates. Symptoms of poisoning such as shortness of breath , signs of paralysis and sweating can occur within seconds after a snake bite.

Poisoning can cause physical defense reactions such as fever . Serious poisoning can lead to impaired perception and even unconsciousness . Untreated poisoning can cause cardiovascular failure or respiratory arrest .

Poisoning can also cause symptoms such as shortness of breath, tiredness and exhaustion. Food poisoning symptoms are common. Unwashed, sprayed fruit, or chemical substances used to preserve it can cause nausea , diarrhea , or vomiting . Stronger reactions of the body can occur due to mushroom poisoning.

In addition to stomach pain , nausea and vomiting, severe symptoms such as paralysis, tachycardia and hallucinations can occur. Fish poisoning can cause abdominal cramps and massive gastrointestinal problems as well as chills and fever. Alcohol intoxication is accompanied by symptoms such as impaired balance , impaired consciousness , nausea and vomiting.


Poisoning can lead to very serious symptoms and, in the worst case, even death. As a rule, however, death only occurs if the poisoning is very severe and continues to go untreated. The individual symptoms also depend heavily on the exact type of poisoning, so that no general prediction can be made here.

Those affected feel unwell and there is inner restlessness or confusion. Vomiting or nausea can also occur as a result of the poisoning and have a very negative effect on the quality of life of those affected. Patients can also suffer from severe pain or discomfort in the man and intestines. Furthermore, in severe cases, poisoning leads to a loss of consciousness.

Sometimes blood poisoning can also occur. Treatment always depends on the type of poisoning. Although there are no complications, the patient’s life cannot always be saved. In the case of mild poisoning, there is usually a positive course of the disease.

When should you go to the doctor?

Discomfort and sudden changes in health after consuming food are causes for concern. If you feel unwell, have an inner weakness or feel dizzy, you should consult a doctor. Stomach cramps, diarrhea or rapid changes in blood pressure indicate a health condition that needs to be investigated and treated. If discolouration, general malfunctions or mobility problems appear, this should be clarified by a doctor. In serious cases, an emergency service must be alerted. In the case of poisoning, there is a risk of the person affected suddenly dying.

Until an ambulance arrivesFirst aid measures must be taken by those present. If the health changes occur even though no food or liquids have been consumed, there may be gases or other pollutants in the air. There is also a need for immediate action, as the toxins enter the organism through breathing and are equally harmful. In the case of muscle cramps, vomiting or a collapse of the circulatory system, the person concerned needs help. Loss of consciousness, vision loss, and speech disorders should be reported to a doctor as soon as possible. Itching, swelling or pain should be understood as warning signals from the body. If existing complaints increase in scope and intensity or if new symptoms appear, a doctor is needed.

Treatment & Therapy

Poisoning is an emergency, as the body shows dangerous symptoms and is probably no longer able to transport or excrete the toxin from the body on its own. Therefore, treatment usually consists of either in-hospital administration of an intravenous antidote that blocks or destroys the source of the poisoning, or gastric pumping to remove the remains of the carrier from the body.

An improvement in the poisoning should become apparent within a few hours; it can also be treated symptomatically at the same time. The problem with poisoning, however, is often identifying the toxin that causes it – in the case of a snake bite , for example, it is not always clear which substance is responsible. Other poisonings also occasionally show general symptoms that would suggest various poisonings and diseases unrelated to the toxin.


Every adult can take the prevention of poisoning into their own hands. For example, care should be taken with trace elements such as iron and other metallic substances – if they are taken as food supplements, they can be overdosed with good intentions. In the case of children, adults must pay special attention to preventing poisoning, for example preventing them from eating colorful but poisonous berries outside or playing with cleaning supplies in the house.

These are the causes of most poisoning in children that require treatment – because they do not know which substances are dangerous for them and usually do not listen to adults who warn them. Care should also be taken when supplementing children’s diet, as an overdose can result from good will.

Likewise, no unfamiliar mushrooms should be eaten. Clean water, especially in tropical countries, usually has to be bought because the tap water does not meet our European standards.


Follow-up care after poisoning depends on the type and severity of the poisoning. In any case, the patient must be observed for a few days to weeks after the incident. In the case of severe poisoning, which is accompanied by serious physical symptoms, an inpatient stay in the hospital is indicated.

The attending doctor regularly checks the general condition of the patient and initiates further measures if necessary. The doctor clarifies the symptoms and, if necessary, also finds out about the background of the poisoning. Follow-up care is usually provided by the doctor who has already taken on the treatment of the poisoning. Depending on the type of poisoning, this can be the family doctor or a specialist.

In the case of severe poisoning, the first treatment is often provided by the emergency doctor and the follow-up care by the clinician. If the poisoning was caused intentionally, for example by overdosing on a drug or excessive alcohol consumption, therapeutic advice may be necessary, among other things. Which measures make sense in detail depends on the type of poisoning and the circumstances that led to it and must be decided on a case-by-case basis.

You can do that yourself

In the event of poisoning, the first thing to do is remain calm. The affected person should sit quietly and call 911. Depending on the type of poisoning, various measures can then be taken to alleviate the symptoms of poisoning and, ideally, to flush out the toxin.

If the eyes are affected, the lid gap should be rinsed out with lukewarm water. Poisoning involving the skin must also be treated with lukewarm water and soap. Clothing that has come into contact with the toxin must be removed in any case. In the event of vomiting, the affected person must be held and stabilized in a prone and head-down position. If the poison has been swallowed, vomiting must be avoided. If you are unconscious, you should call an ambulance . The affected person must be placed in the stable side position and monitored. Suitable antidotes from specialist shops are medicinal charcoal and anti-foaming drugs. The administration is best done in consultation with the poison control center or medical staff.

If necessary, it is permissible to take in liquids to promote the flushing out of the toxin. The exact measures to be taken in the event of poisoning can be given by a specialist in internal medicine. People who are exposed to toxins professionally or privately should find out about first-aid measures in advance .

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.