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First Aid for Insecticide Poisoning

Last updated March 2, 2018

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

Insecticide Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake of any product containing the compound. The exposure may occur following skin/eye contact, inhalation, or swallowing of the product.

What is Insecticide Poisoning?

  • Insecticides constitute a large variety of chemicals that are used to kill and eliminate insects including bugs, parasitic worms, and pests. Broadly, insecticides may be grouped into the following 3 types:
    • Organic insecticides: Chemical compounds consisting of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen that include organochlorides and organophosphates
    • Inorganic insecticides: Some of these are metal-based and include boric acid, calcium polysulfide, mercurous chloride, copper oleate, sodium thiocyanate, etc.
    • Natural insecticides: These are plant-derived and include pyrethrins, neem extracts, and nicotine-based insecticides among others
  • All insecticides are poisonous to humans; some, such as natural insecticides, are less toxic, while others are highly-toxic. Specifically, insecticides belonging to the family of carbamate and organophosphate compounds are highly-potent
  • Insecticide Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake of any product containing the compound. The exposure may occur following skin/eye contact, inhalation, or swallowing of the product
  • The condition is diagnosed based upon the clinical history, combination of signs and symptoms, and additional tests (that may include, in some cases, radiological studies and laboratory tests)

Insecticide Poisoning may be also referred to variously as the following:

  • Insecticide Toxicity
  • Larvicide Poisoning
  • Ovicide Poisoning

What are the Causes of Insecticide Poisoning?

  • Insecticide Poisoning may be caused by the exposure to a wide variety of insecticides. This may occur following a skin or eye exposure, inhalation of insecticide powder, fumes, or vapors, or by swallowing the chemical
  • Some insecticides are easily absorbed by the body, especially following skin contact or ingestion of the substance
  • This intake could be accidental, or in some cases intentional, to bring self-harm
  • The common insecticides in use include paradichlorobenzenes, pyrethrins, carbamates, neonicotinoids, ryanoids, organophosphates, organochlorides, insect growth regulators, and other biological insecticides

Note: The compound can interact with other prescribed or non-prescribed medications in the body. Such interactions may enhance the therapeutic effects of other medications being taken, resulting in undesired side effects.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Insecticide Poisoning?

The signs and symptoms of Insecticide Poisoning can vary from one individual to another. It may be mild in some and severe in others. Several systems of the body, such as the respiratory system, digestive system, nervous system, vascular system, urinary system, skin and ENT may be affected. The type of chemical compound, the quantity ingested or mode of exposure, dictate the type of symptoms that are noted.

The common signs and symptoms of Insecticide Poisoning may include:

  • Breathing difficulties; chest pain or tightness
  • Wheezing
  • Headache, sweating
  • Increased tearing from the eyes, redness
  • Increased salivation in the mouth
  • Nausea, vomiting; diarrhea
  • Stomach or abdominal pain (cramping pan)
  • Urination difficulties
  • Vision abnormalities including small-sized or enlarged pupils
  • Lack of light sensitivity
  • Increased or decreased heart-rate
  • Increased or reduced blood pressure (hypertension or hypotension respectively)
  • Feeling dizzy, confused, or agitated
  • Skin irritation, redness, and inflammation
  • Muscle spasms
  • Bluish discoloration of the lips and beneath the fingernails
  • Seizures
  • Collapse and coma

How is First Aid administered for Insecticide Poisoning?

First Aid tips for Insecticide Poisoning:

  • Call 911 or your local emergency help number immediately, for emergency assistance
  • Call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 (or your local poison control center) for further instructions
  • Provide them with information such as the compound taken, quantity and time of ingestion, age, weight and general health status of affected individual
  • Carefully remove the individual from the exposure area
  • Clean the mouth to remove any remaining substance; wipe mouth with a wet cloth
  • Confirm that the airways are protected; also, ensure breathing and the presence of pulse
  • Unless instructed by a healthcare professional, DO NOT induce vomiting in the affected individual
  • If skin exposure or involvement of the eye has occurred, then wash thoroughly with copious amounts of water (for at least 15 minutes)
  • Take individual to emergency room (ER) for further treatment
  • Dispose contaminated clothing, while wearing protective gloves/gear, based on suitable instruction of the poison control center
  • Always try to take the product bottle/container to the ER

The emergency medical health professional might perform the following steps towards treating the condition:

  • Decontaminate the individual before starting treatment (usually done by the first responders) 
  • Gastric lavage for elimination of the substance from the stomach (irrigation using special solutions)
  • Administer activated charcoal to avoid absorbance of the substance in the body
  • Administer suitable medication/antidote to counter effects of the toxin; usually, atropine is administered intravenously
  • Medically manage symptoms, such as abnormal heart rate and seizures
  • Provide breathing support, if necessary
  • Wash skin and eyes repeatedly and thoroughly (irrigation), to eliminate any remaining hazardous compound
  • Surgical treatment for skin burns including removal of burnt skin
  • Administer fluids by an intravenous drip line

Who should administer First Aid for Insecticide Poisoning?

First aid for Insecticide Poisoning is administered by healthcare professionals.

  • The individual who is affected, or someone near, should call 911 for emergency assistance (or the local emergency number)
  • They should also call the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 (or the local poison control center) and follow instructions

What is the Prognosis of Insecticide Poisoning?

  • The prognosis of Insecticide Poisoning is dependent on the type and amount of substance consumed, time between consumption and treatment, severity of the symptoms, as well as general health status of the patient
  • If the individual can recover from the symptoms within 4-6 hours following the poisoning event, with appropriate medication and early support, the outcome is generally good
  • In many cases, a complete recovery may take some time (weeks and months) and necessitate prolonged treatment
  • In case of severe symptoms including abnormal heart rates, seizures, and coma, it may considerably worsen the outcome. Individuals, who swallowed organophosphates are affected the most; the outcomes are usually guarded to poor

In general, toxicities are common situations in the emergency departments. A majority of the cases are often not fatal, when appropriate treatment is given.

How can Insecticide Poisoning be Prevented?

Insecticide Poisoning can be prevented by:

  • Keeping poisonous/hazardous chemicals and other materials out of children’s reach
  • Always follow instructions for usage of any chemical products
  • Using appropriate protective wear (hand gloves, face masks) when working with or using such chemicals
  • Be aware of basic first aid steps in case of an emergency (such as inadvertent poisoning)

Note: Over the last few decades, some insecticides have been discontinued, while the use of many insecticides have been banned around the world.

What are certain Crucial Steps to be followed?

  • Call 911 (or your local emergency number) for emergency assistance, if symptoms are life-threatening
  • Call Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 (or the local poison control center) and follow the recommend steps
  • It would be helpful if the following information is readily available:
    • Type, amount and time of consumption of the substance
    • Age and weight of the individual
    • And, the overall health status of the individual

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?

References and Information Sources used for the Article:

Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Aug. 10, 2017
Last updated: March 2, 2018