Emergency advice


  1. If responsive identify what they’ve swallowed.
  2. Call 999.
  3. Reassure them.
  4. Do not try to make them vomit. If they do vomit, keep any vomit in a bag.
  5. Monitor the casualty. 

What are swallowed poisons?

Swallowed poisons include chemicals, fungi, and berries. Hazardous chemicals can be household products like bleach, which can poison or burn if swallowed. Poisonous plants include certain types of mushroom, and foxgloves. Prescribed and over-the-counter drugs can also be harmful if someone takes too many.

Signs and symptoms

If someone has swallowed a poison, they may have:

  • nausea and vomiting (sometimes blood-stained)
  • pain or burning sensation
  • cramping stomach pains
  • seizures
  • reduced level of response.

What to do

  1. If the person is responsive, ask them what they have swallowed, when and how much.

    • There might be some clues around them, like empty packaging, or containers, or poisonous plants and berries.
  2. Call 999 or 112 for emergency help and give them as much information as possible. Keep checking their breathing and response.

    • Do not try to make them vomit. If they do vomit, then put some of this into a bag or container and give it to the healthcare professionals along with any other clues. This may help them identify the poison.
    • If they become unresponsive, open their airway, check their breathing and prepare to give CPR.

Our training courses:

First aid courses

First aid courses


Related first aid advice

How to do the primary survey

Use the primary survey to quickly assess the situation and check the casualty for injuries or conditions that could be immediately life threatening. Find out what to do.

How to put an adult in the recovery position

It’s safe to place someone in the recovery position who is not responding to you but is breathing normally. Learn what to do.

How to do CPR on an adult

If an adult is unresponsive and not breathing normally, you need to call 999 or 112 for emergency help and start CPR straight away. Learn what to do.

St John Ambulance volunteers providing support