Every home contains a great variety of potentially dangerous acids, ranging from cleaning and polishing compounds through insect and weed killers, to disinfectants. Acids can cause injury through skin contact, inhalation of fumes, or swallowing. About 1,400 people die each year from accidental poisoning, and more than 200,000 suffer disabling illness from acids, which can cripple or damage the nervous system, scar or destroy the skin, throat, or stomach. and blind or damage eyes. About four-fifths of these poisonings occur in the home, and almost half the victims are less than five years old.
As a general precaution, all such products and other poisons, e.g., drugs, should be kept out of the reach of children. If possible, they should be placed on high shelves and, preferably, in locked compartments. For specific information on antidotes to poisons, call your nearest Poison Control Center. Your local Board of Health or local hospital can advise you where the nearest center is located. Keep this number with your other emergency numbers.
For an emergency, have one or more of the following acid neutralizers available: milk of magnesia, magnesium oxide, lime water (a solution of calcium in water), or aluminum hydroxide gel. Sodium bicarbonate is helpful in case of skin burns, but because of its effervescent qualities it should not be taken by mouth after a corrosive acid has been accidentally swallowed.
If poisoning is suspected, all relevant facts should be noted, and objects near the person (remnants of food, drink, drugs, and household products and their containers or utensils) should be examined quickly. These objects
should be kept for future reference, not only for the physician, but in case of suicide, homicide, or unexplained death with legal complications.
The first signs of poisoning include severe pain in the mouth and throat, headache, dizziness, and mental confusion, associated with vomiting of ” coffee ground ” material (blood), and crarnping pains. Later, damage involves the gullet, kidneys. liver, and heart, especially when the patient does not receive the attention of a physician.
When a corrosive acid has been swallowed or come in contact with the skin, it must be neutralized and diluted. Do not give emetics. Before anything specific is done, a physician should be contacted and an ambulance called if necessary. For skin burns, remove all contaminated clothing immediately and wash the skin thoroughly, but gently, with large amounts of water. A nonirritant soap may be used cautiously, but detergents should be avoided, A paste of sodium bicarbonate may then be applied.
For eye burns, hold the lids open and flush copiously with a slow stream of water for at least 10 to 15 minutes. If there is an indication of even slight injury, promptly see a physician, preferably an ophthalmologist. After inhalation of acid fumes, move the patient to an uncontaminated atmosphere and keep the airway clear. Make him lie down and see that he is kept warm. Use artificial respiration only when the breathing is very difficult or has stopped.
After swallowing Of acids, give the person a neutralizer such as milk of magnesia, Then have him drink large quantities of water. In cases of poisoning wit carbolic acid or lysol, dilute the poison with a demulcent such as
olive or mineral oil. Other demulcents include melted butter, egg white, crushed banana, flour and water, oatmeal gruel, or gelatin solution. In case of shock, keep the person warm while waiting for the ambulance or physician. If the person is unconscious and does not breathe, be sure the airway is clear, and adlninister mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.