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A poison, which is also called a toxin, is defined as a substance which if taken into the body in significant quantity may cause temporary or permanent damage. Poisons are not only swallowed or in food, they're also absorbed through the skin, inhaled, splashed into the eyes or injected into the body. Once the toxin is in the body, it can get into the bloodstream and can very quickly be carried to any part of the body's tissues or organs. The speed and way that a poison affects the person will vary depending on the poison, the type of poison, the method of poisoning, the speed of intake and the amount of the poison taken. Swallowed poisons, like chemicals, may also harm the digestive tract or cause more widespread damage like burning, swelling and blistering. This is in addition to the damage they do as they enter the bloodstream or are transported to other parts of the body. These chemicals include many common household chemicals used such as cleaning products, detergents and bleaches, medications and drugs are also included under chemical poisons, these can be in any form, whether they are prescription, over-the-counter or illegal drugs.

The effect of poisoning will depend on what substance has been swallowed. Signs and symptoms of poisoning will depend on the type of poison that may include vomiting, sometimes bloodstained, nausea, diarrhoea, impaired consciousness, pain or burning sensations, empty containers in the vicinity, and a recent history of ingestion or exposure. The treatment is to identify what poison has been taken. Ask them what they have swallowed, try to reassure them, dial 999 or 112 and ask for an ambulance, give as much information as possible about the swallowed poison. This information will assist doctors to give the appropriate treatment once the casualty reaches the hospital. If the casualty becomes unconscious, open the airway with a head tilt, chin lift and check for breathing. Be prepared to give chest compressions and rescue breaths if necessary, if the patient has been in contact with chemicals, use a face mask or shield to avoid getting the chemicals in your mouth, while delivering the breaths. Place them in a recovery position if the casualty is unconscious but breathing normally. Do not induce vomiting as this can cause more damage if the vomit and therefore the chemical starts to cover the whole respiratory tract, the mouth, inside the nose, and it causes respiratory problems.

Food poisoning is usually caused by eating food or drink that has been contaminated with bacteria or viruses and can develop within hours or maybe even a day after eating the contaminated food. Some food poisoning is caused by poisons from bacteria already in the food. The Salmonella or E. Coli group of bacteria, which are found mainly in meat, are common causes of food poisoning. The Streptococcus group of bacteria can cause toxic food poisoning within 2-6 hours after eating the contaminated food. One serious problem with food poisoning is dehydration, this is because the body fluids are lost and not replaced quickly enough. This is especially serious in the young and the old or in hot climates. In serious cases, this has to be treated in a hospital. Signs and symptoms of food poisoning include nausea and vomiting, cramping, abdominal pains, diarrhoea, which is possibly bloodstained, headache or fever, signs of shock and impaired consciousness.

Treatment is to encourage the patient to rest and give them plenty of fluids. The use of rehydration powders mixed with water can also help. You may need to seek medical assistance if needed, and sometimes food poisoning will result in hospitalization. Finally, if someone has had food poisoning, you need to ensure that no one else will be affected, and in some cases, you would need to report it to the authorities or to the employer.

  • IPOSi Unit four LO5.1, 5.2, 5.3 & 5.4