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First Aid for Plant Fertilizer Poisoning

Last updated Feb. 27, 2018

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

Plant Fertilizer Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake (swallowing, breathing-in, or skin contact) of any type of fertilizer.

What is Plant Fertilizer Poisoning?

  • Fertilizers are natural or synthetic compounds added to the soil to help provide an additional supply of minerals and nutrients to plants and trees
  • The 3 main components of a fertilizer are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. The other lesser, but important ingredients of a plant fertilizer may include minerals such as calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc, iron, boron, etc.
  • Plant Fertilizer Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake (swallowing, breathing-in, or skin contact) of any type of fertilizer
  • 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)

Plant Fertilizer Poisoning may be also referred to variously as the following:

  • Fertiliser Poisoning
  • Fertilizer Poisoning
  • Household Plant Food Poisoning
  • Plant Fertilizer Toxicity

What are the Causes of Plant Fertilizer Poisoning?

  • Plant Fertilizer Poisoning is caused by the ingestion, inhalation, or exposure of skin to plant fertilizers
  • This intake could be accidental, or in some cases intentional, to bring self-harm
  • Plant fertilizers are classified into several types, such as nitrogen fertilizer, phosphate fertilizer, potassium fertilizer, compound fertilizer, organic fertilizer, etc.
  • Generally, fertilizers are non-toxic. However, they may cause symptoms when consumed, due to some of the compounds (such as nitrates or nitrites) contained in them

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 Plant Fertilizer Poisoning?

The signs and symptoms of Plant Fertilizer 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 vascular system, digestive system, respiratory system, and ENT may be affected.

The signs and symptoms of Plant Fertilizer Poisoning may include:

  • Breathing difficulties, if fertilizer powder is inhaled
  • Burning and associated pain in the mouth, throat, and food-pipe (even the stomach may be burnt)
  • Skin irritation and burns; itching of skin
  • Grayish or bluish discoloration of skin on the lips, beneath fingernails, and on palms
  • Stomach and abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Decrease in blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Feeling dizzy, lack of coordinated movement
  • Convulsions
  • Unconsciousness

How is First Aid administered for Plant Fertilizer Poisoning?

First Aid tips for Plant Fertilizer 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; move them to region of fresh air immediately
  • Confirm that the airways are protected; also, ensure breathing and the presence of pulse
  • If skin exposure or involvement of the eye has occurred, then wash thoroughly with copious amounts of water (for at least 15 minutes)
  • Unless instructed by a healthcare professional, DO NOT induce vomiting in the affected individual
  • Following an ingestion of the substance, immediately give water or milk to drink, if instructed by the healthcare personnel
  • In case of symptoms that indicate difficulty in swallowing including vomiting or decreased alertness, do not give anything by way of mouth
  • Take individual to emergency room (ER) for further treatment
  • Always try to take the compound bottle/container to the ER

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

  • Medically manage symptoms, such as abnormal heart rate
  • Provide breathing support, if necessary
  • Administer suitable medication to counter the effects of the ingested compound
  • Wash skin and eyes repeatedly and thoroughly (irrigation), to eliminate any remaining hazardous compound
  • Following this, a suitable skin or eye ointment may be used to treat the exposure
  • Administer fluids by an intravenous drip line

Who should administer First Aid for Plant Fertilizer Poisoning?

First aid for Plant Fertilizer 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 Plant Fertilizer Poisoning?

  • The prognosis of Plant Fertilizer Poisoning is dependent on the 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, with appropriate medication and early support, the outcome is generally good
  • Consumption of a large quantity of fertilizer can be typically dangerous. It has the potential of affecting several organs of the body including the brain

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 Plant Fertilizer Poisoning be Prevented?

Plant Fertilizer Poisoning can be prevented by:

  • Always following instructions for usage of any household products
  • Keeping any poisonous/hazardous chemicals and other materials out of children’s reach
  • Keep all poisons correctly labeled and in suitable storage locations
  • Wearing appropriate protective wear when working with such chemicals
  • Being aware of basic first aid steps in case of an emergency (such as inadvertent poisoning)

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: July 9, 2017
Last updated: Feb. 27, 2018