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First Aid for Weed Killer Poisoning

Last updated March 2, 2018

Weed killers are herbicides used to control the growth of or eliminate unwanted plants from home gardens, farms, fields, etc. Weed Killer Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake of the compound. The exposure may occur following skin/eye contact with weed killers, inhalation, or swallowing of the product.


What is Weed Killer Poisoning?

  • Weed killers are herbicides used to control the growth of or eliminate unwanted plants from home gardens, farms, fields, etc.
  • These substances are generally toxic in nature. Weed killers are sprayed onto the leaves of the plants or unwanted grass to destroy them
  • They are commonly sold under the brand names Roundup, Bronco, Glifonox, Kleen-up, Rodeo, and Weedoff among others
  • Weed Killer Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake of the compound. The exposure may occur following skin/eye contact with weed killers, 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)

Weed Killer Poisoning may be also referred to as the following:

  • Glyphosate Herbicide Poisoning
  • Grass Killer Poisoning
  • Herbicide Poisoning
  • Roundup Poisoning
  • Weed Killer Toxicity
  • Weedicide Poisoning
  • Weedoff Poisoning

What are the Causes of Weed Killer Poisoning?

  • Weed Killer Poisoning is caused by exposure to weedicides or weed killers. This may occur following a skin or eye exposure, inhalation of spray droplets or vapors, or swallowing of the chemical
  • This intake could be accidental, or in some cases intentional, to bring self-harm
  • The common poisonous ingredient found in weed killers is glyphosate (or N-(phosphonomethyl) glycine). Other chemicals present in weed killers may include pyrethrins, carbamates, and paradichlorobenzenes

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 Weed Killer Poisoning?

The signs and symptoms of Weed Killer Poisoning can vary from one individual to another. It may be mild in some and severe in others. Several systems of the body may be affected.

The signs and symptoms of Weed Killer Poisoning may include

  • Burning sensation in the mouth and throat
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Headaches; feeling dizzy or drowsy
  • Anxiety and restlessness
  • Nausea, vomiting (blood in vomit)
  • Stomach and abdominal pain; cramping pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Reduced blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Occasionally, bluish discoloration of lips and beneath fingernails
  • Unconsciousness and coma

How is First Aid administered for Weed Killer Poisoning?

First Aid tips for Weed Killer Poisoning:

  • If the individual with Weed Killer Poisoning is unconscious, or is experiencing life-threatening symptoms, call 911 (or your local emergency help number) immediately
  • 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 type of compound taken, quantity and time of ingestion, age, weight and general health status of affected individual
  • Carefully remove the individual from the exposure area
  • 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
  • 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), if necessary
  • Gastric lavage for elimination of the substance from the stomach (irrigation using special solutions), if necessary
  • Medically manage symptoms, such as abnormal heart rate and low blood pressure
  • Provide breathing support, if necessary
  • Administer medicines to counter the effects of the ingested toxic substance
  • Administer fluids by an intravenous drip line

Who should administer First Aid for Weed Killer Poisoning?

First aid for Weed Killer 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 Weed Killer Poisoning?

  • The prognosis of Weed Killer Poisoning is dependent on the amount of substance consumed, time between overdose and treatment, severity of the symptoms, as well as general health status of the patient
  • If the individual can recover from the symptoms within a few hours (4-6 hours), with appropriate medication and prompt medical support, the outcome can be good
  • In case of severe symptoms due to significant amounts of the substance being swallowed, the prognosis may be considerably worsened. Severe cases of Weed Killer Poisoning can be fatal

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 Weed Killer Poisoning be Prevented?

Weed Killer 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)

It is important to give your healthcare provider a complete list of prescription and non-prescription medications that are being currently taken. This will help them in assessing the possible drug interactions within various medications and help avoid/prevent accidental or unintentional toxic drug effects.

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. 2, 2017
Last updated: March 2, 2018