Plant dangers in the garden and countryside

Keep your family safe with this guide to plant hazards, and find out what to do if someone is affected

Poisoning is when a person is exposed to a substance that can damage their health or put their life in danger.

Poisoning is a common health problem, resulting in around 120,000 hospital admissions each year in England. Most cases of poisoning happen at home and children under five have the highest risk of accidental poisoning.

In around one in four reported cases, the person intentionally poisoned themselves as an act of suicide.

Signs and symptoms of poisoning

The symptoms of poisoning will depend on the type of poison and the amount taken in, but general things to look out for include:

  • vomiting
  • stomach pains
  • high temperature
  • drowsiness and fainting fits

If a child suddenly develops such symptoms, they may have been poisoned, especially if they are drowsy and confused. 

Read more about the symptoms of poisoning.

What to do

If you suspect that someone has taken an overdose or has been poisoned do not try to treat them yourself. Get medical help immediately.

If they do not appear to be seriously ill then call NHS 111 for advice.

If they are showing signs of being seriously ill, such as vomiting, loss of consciousness, drowsiness or seizures (fits), call 999 for an ambulance or take the person to your local A&E department.

In serious cases, it may be necessary for the person to stay in hospital for treatment. Most people admitted to hospital because of poisoning will survive.

Read more about what to do if you think someone has been poisoned.

Types of poisons

Poisons can be swallowed, absorbed through the skin, inhaled, splashed into the eyes, or injected.

In the UK, the most common way a person is poisoned is by taking an overdose of medication. This can include both over-the-counter medications such as paracetamol and prescription medications such as antidepressants.

Other potential poisons include:

  • household products such as bleach
  • cosmetic items such as nail polish
  • some types of plants and fungi
  • certain types of chemicals and pesticides
  • carbon monoxide
  • poorly prepared or cooked food, and food that has gone mouldy or been contaminated with bacteria from raw meat (food poisoning)
  • alcohol, if an excessive amount is consumed in a short period (alcohol poisoning)
  • insect stings
  • snake bites

Read more about the causes of poisoning.

Preventing poisoning

There are several steps you can take to reduce your or your child’s risk of poisoning.

These include carefully reading the patient information leaflet that comes with your medication and making sure any poisonous substances are locked away out of the sight and reach of your children.

Read more about preventing poisoning.

Page last reviewed: 23/08/2013

Next review due: 23/08/2015


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The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Seviyorumcok said on 20 March 2010

I am so worried as I sit and type this, 2 years ago in March 2008 my health was really bad, I already suffer with Chronic Pain Syndrome due to a fall whereas 12 bones were broken. Mainly my back, my hip, my pelvis on both sides, my writ, my ankles, my heel was completely shattered/

Anyhow in March 2008 I had to go into hospital to have a woman's procedure done. I could not empt my bladder and was told it was probably my spine that was causing it, however after my procedure the nurses tried bringing me around from the anaesthetic, it took 7hrs! I was kept in hospital a fuerther 3 days under obsevation.

On my return home I was sat in my kitchen looking at my kitchen walls and wondering why were they so dirty looking, I then noticed my back door too was dirty, my eyes scurried around my kitchen walls and as I looked up I noticed the flue to my boiler was black. I rang the hsg assoc who told me they would send someone outin 3 days time. But when telling a neighbour they gave me the telephone number of National Gtid who came out within 10 minutes, the engineer told me he had to turn off my gas appliances as he suspects Carbon Monoxide spillage.

Then when the hsg assoc guy turned up he played it down by telling me CO doesn't travel nor this it go through brick, nor was my boiler spilling out CO. An Inspector came the next day and told me there was nothing wrong with my boiler. In between times I managed to converse with a lady from CO awarenes via the website who told me I was treated appallingly.

This lady gave me a CO detector, but because my boiler had been inspected by an inspector and I was assured my boiler was safe I gate the detector to my daughter because she has 3 young children, my lovely grandchildren.

Then Tues just gone 16th March 2010 the gasman came contracted by the hsg assoc to do an annual check on my boiler. He turned to me and told me a familiar sound that I was to have my gas appliances switched off he suspected Carbon Monoxide

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