CATEGORIES OF POISONING
Poisons can be classified in many different ways. Ingested poisons discussed in
this lesson are categorized as follows: poisonings by chemicals, poisonings by
vegetation, and poisonings by food. Poisonings caused by chemicals include damage
done by corrosives, metals, salicylates, alcohol, and petroleum products. A variety of
plants are poisonous to humans when eaten. People can also be poisoned by food.
Eating too much of some foods, being allergic or hypersensitive to certain foods, or
eating food containing certain bacteria or their toxins can all result in food poisoning.
Signs, symptoms, and treatment for these three categories of ingested poisons will be
discussed later in this lesson.
GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF POISONINGS
a. Socioeconomic Factors. These generalizations can be made regarding
poisonings. More poisonings occur in cities than in rural areas. There are more
poisonings in low income areas than in high income areas. Lead poisoning from paint
occurs more frequently among poor people than among middle or high income people.
b. General Physical Condition. The general physical condition of each patient
makes a difference in how the patient reacts to poison. Age is important in that infants
and children react strongly to ingested poisons. Ill or diseased individuals are more
susceptible to ill effects from ingested poisons than those in good physical health. The
way ingested poisons affect people also varies depending on race, sex, and the
presence of congenital disease. A person can become addicted to certain poisons or
drugs when these substances are repeatedly taken in small doses. This causes the
buildup of a tolerance for the substance. Some individuals can build up a tolerance for
ingested poisons. That is, the person can take poison seemingly without becoming ill.
Whether the person feels ill or not, there is always some damage to the body. If this
individual takes a little more poison than usual, he is liable to die or become very sick.
c. Nature of Poisoning. Basically, poisoning means eating, breathing, or
touching any substance which can harm you causing you injury, illness, or death.
Terms to become familiar with include acute poisoning and chronic poisoning. Acute
poisoning is the condition brought on by taking an overdose of poison at one time (a
child eating all the aspirin tablets in a bottle, for example). Chronic poisoning is the
condition brought on by taking repeated doses of a poison a long period of time or by
absorbing doses of poison over a long period of time. A young child chewing on a baby
crib covered with lead paint is an example of poisoning by absorption. Whenever there
is an unexplained or acute illness, consider that the person may be suffering from