Episode 151 S4-27
Battle for the South Ch 27
During Battle for the South, Erika awakes groggily in the hospital still reeling from the effects of the drugs she was given. Luckily, she awakes in a medical facility but during a natural disaster or long term survival situation, help might not be available. He today to discuss what to do if someone is poisoned and you can't get help is Sam Bradley, Fire & EMS educator.
There is a big question of survival if someone is poisoned. In today's society many items present a significant threat. Prescription drugs are beneficial to some in appropriate doses but highly dangerous to others or in excessive doses. A lot of the time it is difficult to tell what the individual has been exposed to. This is a major problem because different threats have to be treated in different ways.
The first thing to do if you notice someone is displaying signs of being poisoned is to figure out what they were poisoned with. You have to become a detective to find out. If it was a child, find out what is under the kitchen sink. Be careful of medications or vitamins that taste too good but shouldn't be taken in large doses. The child may overindulge in the product. Look around for evidence of what happened. Are there empty bottles around? Needles? Food?
It is absolutely essential that as someone who may be stocking food away that you recognize the signs of food spoilage. Make sure you are rotating your supplies. It is a pain in the butt but worth every second of time if you and your family don't get sick. Look for signs of food spoilage: mold, bulging, leaking, etc.
It is also essential that you know your plants. You should have a firm grasp of what is growing around you. If you have small children make sure you understand what is edible and what is dangerous. Children put everything in their mouths. When you need to turn to wild forgeables for survival, you need to know what is safe. Have a good book so you can identify edibles and start learning now.
When you are working with insecticides and herbicides make certain you are wearing the proper protective gear. No one likes to wear a respirator but no one likes being sick from poisoning either. Make sure you are wearing long sleeves, pants and gloves. Watch wind conditions and take a break when the wind kicks up.
You might not be working directly with insecticides and herbicides during a natural disaster but you may be interacting with wildlife that doesn't normally occupy the area they are in. Remember the animals will be stressed as well. In floods there may be alligators, sharks or snakes inhabiting areas they are not commonly in. In wild fire areas mountain lions and bears are pushed into unfamiliar territory. Be aware of their existence and know that because of the stress they are under, they may not follow their normal behavior patterns. Make a lot of noise and vibration if you are moving through a rural area. If you are bitten by a snake and there is not hope of receiving an antivenom, your chances of survival may be slim, depending on the type of snake. Even today, many emergency rooms are not prepared to handle different types of snake bites due to the cost of antivenom.
The other major type of poisoning that may occur is chemical or radiation poisoning from a man made weapon. Having a respirator on hand is important for any of these types of emergency situations.
You are in a natural disaster or long term scenario and a hypothetical child or individual ingests something bad, the first thing you need to do is try to identify what it was. Then you need to get it out. Milk can help someone throw up or dilute the poison in their tummy. Ipecoc is a product you can carry to induce vomiting. Also, activated charcoal soaks up the poison but you have to drink it. If the patient is unconscious then they can't drink it.
If someone eats an unknown plant it can be quite a different situation. It's a good idea to know the plants in your area because even if you can call poison control you need to be able to identify the plant rather than giving vague descriptions. If you can call poison control do it. They will alert the hospital and poison control has lot of knowledge about treating a wide variety of threats. If you can't call poison control, try to get the plant out of the patient.
Drugs are much easier for poison control to deal with because there is usually a specific antidote for each one. For example Narcan counteracts opiates.
Insecticides and herbicides can cause mnemonic sludge. When these chemicals poison the body all the body's fluids start to evacuate. The patient may exhibit salivation, tearing and diarrhea. The body has a parasympathetic nervous system reaction and often the patient's level of consciousness will drop off as well. A medic could counteract the effects but they will need to know what it was.
Another threat that exists is poison plants that cause rashes like poison oak, ivy or sumac. The rashes individuals develop from these plants are spread by oils that the plants produce. Steroids will back the reaction down but you may not be able to access these medications in a survival situation. You need to be aware of what these poison plants look like and limit your exposure to them. Try to stock up on preventatives in your go-bag. Carry a soap that will wash the oils off. My husband and I use a mugwort soap and it works wonders!! Then stock up on anti-itch cream and get ready to feel the burn. There is no magic fix once you get the rash. Never, ever burn one of these poison plants. The smoke can carry the oil into your lungs and cause death. If you are exposed to the smoke have a respirator on hand for use.
If you are planning on bugging out or leaving during a natural disaster always do so in long sleeves and pants. Wear boots and gloves. Wear rubber gloves under your work gloves. Have goggles for eye protection and a respirator. This may seem like overkill but if you go into a flooding situation there can be all kinds of nasty things mixed together in that water. Chemical contamination and biological contamination can cause serious skin damage and even death.
If someone has swallowed a petroleum product, do not make them throw up. Their esophagus could burn when exposed to it. Let them drinks small amounts of milk. Give them the activated charcoal mixed with water. It is gross but it works.
If you are exposed to an airborne contaminant and it gets in your eyes. Wash, wash, and wash your eyes again. Wash them for a minimum of twenty minutes. You have to get any contaminates out quick, fast and in a hurry or the patient could lose their eye. The longer it takes to wash the eye and the longer it stays in there the more damage it will do. Make sure you warn others of a potential airborne threat. Wash your skin after exposure.
Always know your products, the dangers they present and appropriate actions to take if exposed.
The Changing Earth Series
Sam Bradley, MS, EMT-P, has been in EMS for 38 years as a Paramedic, Clinical and Educational Services Coordinator and ambulance company paramedic field supervisor. She also spent many years as an EMS educator. Sam currently works as a QI consultant and EMS educator for fire departments and communications centers. A prolific writer, she does freelance work for EMS related journals, online publications and textbook publishers. Sam has published a number of fiction stories and is very involved in social media and blogging. Following her passion for disaster EMS, she is the Training Officer for the federal Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) CA-6. She also dabbles in photography and videography. She is currently residing in Colorado and spends her time working on EMS CE content and writing EMS textbooks and novels. She co-hosts a popular weekly podcast that is in its fifth year. She loves dogs and banana cream pie.