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Treatment of poisoning

A helpful table giving details of how to treat accidental poisoning from insecticides, fungicides and herbicides.

1990 Available in English

Footsteps magazine issues on a wooden desk.

From: Medicines and chemicals – Footsteps 2

Thinking again about our need for medicines and agricultural chemicals

A helpful table giving details of how to treat accidental poisoning from insecticides, fungicides and herbicides.


Chemical group






Absorbed through the skin. Very toxic if swallowed. The effects of poisoning may build up slowly.

aldrin, dieldrin, gamma HCH, DDT, endosulphan

Excitement, twitching, fits, stopping breathing. Reaction may be delayed for up to 2 days.

Control fits, watch breathing. Admit to hospital


The effects of poisoning may build up slowly after days or even months of spraying.  It is usually absorbed through the skin.

azinphos-methyl, bromophos, demeton-S-methyl, dichlorvos, dimethoate, phosphamidon, trichlorphon, fenthion, diazinon, malathion

Exhaustion, weakness, vomiting, abdominal pains, cold sweats, small pupils twitching, fits, incontinence, breathing may stop.

Patient must not move. Give Atropine 2 mg by injection. Repeat if necessary. Control fits. Admit to hospital. Atropine is one of the few useful antidotes. Keep a supply with suitable needles and syringes.


The effects are very similar to the Organophosphates and treatment is identical.

carbofuron, pirimicarb, propoxur, carbaryl

See Organophosphates.

See Organophosphates.


This may be very toxic, especially when used as a smoke or spray in closed rooms.  If patient survives the initial poisoning, recovery is complete.


Nausea, dizziness, vomiting, sweating, collapse, fits, coma.

Control fits. No antidote.


These are not very toxic in humans and poisoning is only likely if they are swallowed.

pyrethrin, cypermethrin (Ambush)

Excited, fits

Induce Vomiting.



These are not very toxic. They can cause skin irritation. There may be breathing problems if large amounts are swallowed.

mancozeb, maneb, probineb, thiram, zineb

Irritation of skin, eyes or mouth.

Induce vomiting, watch breathing.


Absorbed through skin. Skin and hair will be stained yellow if a lot of poison is absorbed.

dinocap, dinoseb

Tiredness, sweating, anxiety, fast breathing.

Give plenty to drink. Keep cool.



Herbicides which kill weeds are rarely used by small-holder farmers but may be used on commercial farms or plantations. Many of them are not very toxic, unless swallowed. Follow first aid treatment and induce vomiting for all those in the Triazine group (simazine, atrazine, ametryne) and in the Phenoxyacetate group (MCPA, 2:4-D, 2:4:5-T).



The main risk is from accidental or deliberate swallowing. Large amounts cause death in 1 to 2 days. Small amounts can cause long term, often fatal, lung damage.

paraquat, diquat

Severe skin and eye irritation, nosebleeds, mouth and throat burns, vomiting, diarrhoea.

Only induce vomiting if shortly after swallowing. If throat is not badly burned, swallow a handful of clay or earth to inactivate the chemical. Wash eye or skin splashes. Urgent hospital admission.


These are very toxic and rapid treatment is essential. An antidote (Dimercaprol) may be available at a hospital. Poisoning can be rapid by swallowing or gradual.

sodium arsenite, MSMA, DSMA

Stomach pain, diarrhoea, cramps, collapse (following swallowing). Gradual loss of appetite, skin rash.

Induce vomiting. Give plenty to drink. Admit to hospital urgently. Antidote may be available.


This can be very poisonous if swallowed. As little as 2 grams is enough to kill a child.

sodium chlorate

Vomiting, stomach pain, confused thinking. Skin and especially lips may turn blue.

Induce vomiting, give plenty to drink. Get to hospital urgently.

If you suspect poisoning by a chemical not included on this list, then it is likely that the first aid measures already mentioned will be adequate. A useful, more extensive guide is “Pesticide Poisoning”, published by Her Majesty’s Stationary Office. It may be ordered through large book-stores overseas, and is available through Government Bookshops in UK.


Dr Hart worked as a GP in Papua New Guinea. 


A note on chemical names…
Commercial chemicals usually have at least three names:


  • Chemical name -usually too long to say. Eg S-1, 2-di (ethoxycarbonyl) ethyl 00-dimethyl phosphorodithioate
  • Common or generic name (used in Footsteps) – a shortened form of the chemical name. Eg malathion (begins with small letters)
  • Trade name – the name each company gives the chemical. Eg Malathon, Malathiozol, Cythion (all begin with capital letter) 

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