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?

A poison is anything that causes halrm to the body when swallowed.  Some poisons can be obvious and clearly marked (Hazardous chemicals, for example) but others can be harder to spot including the leaves or berries of some plants or fungi.  Just because something is 'natural' does not always mean it is non-toxic.  Around the home, many common household products (like bleach) 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 around the mouth, lips or throat
  • 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. If you can, keep any packaging or labels to show the emergency services. 

    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.
    • Do not give the casualty anything to eat or drink.
    • If they become unresponsive, open their airway, check their breathing and prepare to give CPR.

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Related first aid advice

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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.

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