First Aid for Pesticide Poisoning

Immediate and appropriate action, such as providing first aid, may be necessary to prevent serious injury to a victim of pesticide poisoning. The situation can be a life-or-death matter.
First Aid for Pesticide Poisoning - Articles

Updated: October 11, 2017

First Aid for Pesticide Poisoning

The product label should be one of the first sources of information in a pesticide exposure emergency, in addition to calling the National Poison Center (1-800-222-1222) and 911. First aid is only the "first response" and is not a substitute for professional medical help.

General First Aid Instructions

  • Most important, be sure to protect yourself by wearing appropriate protective clothing and equipment if there is a likelihood of being directly exposed to a pesticide while administering first aid or removing the victim from an enclosed area.
  • Have current labels and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) available.
  • Have emergency response telephone numbers readily available.
  • Assemble a first aid kit with necessary supplies.
  • Always have a source of clean water available. In an extreme emergency, even water from a farm pond, clean water irrigation system, or watering trough could be used to dilute the pesticide.
  • If oral or dermal exposure has occurred, the first objective is usually to dilute the pesticide and prevent absorption.
  • If inhalation exposure occurs, first protect yourself, and then get the victim to fresh air immediately.
  • Never give anything orally to an unconscious person.
  • Become familiar with the proper techniques of artificial respiration; it may be necessary if a person's breathing has stopped or become impaired.

Specific First Aid Instructions

If the victim is NOT breathing:

First: Evaluate the surroundings of the victim. Protect yourself from pesticide exposure prior to and while giving assistance.
Second: Administer artificial respiration and call 911.
Third: Call the National Poison Center (1-800-222-1222).
Fourth: Decontaminate the victim immediately; wash thoroughly and quickly. Speed is essential.

If the victim IS breathing:

First: Evaluate the surroundings of the victim. Protect yourself from pesticide exposure prior to and while giving assistance.
Second: Decontaminate the victim immediately; wash thoroughly and quickly. Speed is essential.
Third: Call 911 if the victim has ill effects from the exposure.
Fourth: Call the National Poison Center (1-800-222-1222).

If the pesticide has been spilled on the skin or clothing, remove any contaminated clothing immediately and thoroughly wash the skin with soap and water. Avoid harsh scrubbing since it enhances pesticide absorption. Rinse the affected area with water, wash again, and rinse. Gently dry the affected area and wrap it in a loose cloth or blanket, if necessary. If chemical burns of the skin have occurred, cover the area loosely with a clean, soft cloth. Avoid the use of ointments, greases, powders, and other medications unless instructed by medical personnel.

Heavily contaminated clothing should be disposed of properly. If clothing is not heavily soiled, wash all contaminated clothing separately from any other laundry in hot water, at a high water level, and with a heavy duty liquid detergent. Run the washer through a complete cycle with detergent and no clothes to remove pesticide residue before another wash. Store washed protective clothing separately from other clothes. (Also, do not store protective clothing and equipment in pesticide storage areas.)

If the pesticide has entered into the eyes, hold the eyelid open and immediately begin gently washing the eye with clean running water. Do not use chemicals or drugs in the eye wash water. Continue washing for 15 minutes. If only one eye is involved, avoid contaminating the other one. Flush under the eyelids with water to remove debris. Cover the eye with a clean piece of cloth and seek medical attention immediately. If contact lenses are worn, remove and discard the contacts, then wash the eyes as described above.

If the pesticide has been inhaled, get the victim to fresh air immediately. However, do not attempt to rescue someone who is in an enclosed area unless you are wearing appropriate protective equipment. Have the victim lie down and loosen their clothing. Keep the victim warm and quiet. If the victim is convulsing, watch their breathing and protect their head. Keep the chin up to keep air passages free for breathing. If breathing stops, administer artificial respiration and call 911. Call the National Poison Center (1-800-222-1222) after the victim is stabilized for further advice.

If the pesticide has been swallowed, contact the National Poison Center (1-800-222-1222) and provide them with the name and approximate amount of material that was ingested. Call 911 immediately if the victim has symptoms from the exposure. If the pesticide has entered the mouth but has not been swallowed, rinse the mouth with large amounts of water. Inducing vomiting is rarely advised for any poisoning, including pesticide poisonings.

If a petroleum product (kerosene, gasoline, oil, lighter fluid, EC pesticides) has been swallowed, call the National Poison Center (1-800-222-1222) and 911 immediately for further instruction.

If a corrosive poison (a strong acid or alkali) has been swallowed, dilute with water or milk immediately. Consult the National Poison Center (1-800-222-1222) and 911 immediately. The victim may experience severe pain and have extensive mouth and throat burns. Fortunately, most commonly used pesticides are not corrosive, but some household disinfectants and germicides fall into this category.

Reviewed by J. Ward Donavon, medical director of PinnacleHealth Toxicology Center, Harrisburg Hospital