Pesticide Poisoning First Aid

Symptoms and Treatment

crop duster
Pesticides can come in any amount. Frank Whitney / Getty Images

Pesticides are chemicals used to control unwanted bugs and animals. Pesticides are commonly found around the house and used in gardening, cleaning, and controlling bugs in the home. Pesticide poisonings occur when humans are exposed to pesticides and absorb the chemicals through the skin, the lungs, or by swallowing.

Pesticide Poisoning Symptoms

Symptoms of pesticide poisonings depend heavily on the pesticide to which the victim was exposed.
Symptoms often appear within minutes of pesticide exposure, but may take much longer. The most common symptoms include:
  • Headache
  • Tears in the eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Increased saliva
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Sweating
  • General weakness
  • Muscle twitching
  • Seizures
  • Shallow breathing
  • Not breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Constricted pupils
  • Abdominal pain or cramps
  • Fatigue
Rat poison is a pesticide with its own distinct pattern of symptoms.

Pesticide Poisoning First Aid

Adults tend to get exposures through the use of pesticides while kids are more likely to ingest pesticides. Regardless of the cause of the poisoning, always contact the Poison Control Center immediately. The national number is 1-800-222-1222. If the victim is showing symptoms from pesticide poisoning, call 911 instead of Poison Control. The 911 dispatcher may connect you to Poison Control while you are on the phone with 911.

The most important consideration of any chemical exposure, whether pesticides or not, is to limit the exposure to just the victim.

As each rescuer comes in contact with the victim or area of exposure, the potential for additional victims grows. Stay safe at all times.

It's extremely important to recognize pesticide exposure to the eyes as soon as possible and decontaminate both eyes immediately.

Activated charcoal and syrup of ipecac are available over the counter for immediate treatment of poison ingestion.

Never use activated charcoal or syrup of ipecac unless directed to do so by Poison Control!


Reigart, J. Routt, M.D., and James R. Roberts, M.D., M.P.H. RECOGNITION AND MANAGEMENT OF PESTICIDE POISONINGS. 5th Ed. 1999. EPA

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