Cyanide Poisoning – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

August 14 19:51 2019 Print This Article

Cyanide may be taken deliberately for suicide. Accidental exposures occur in fumigation, fires, the electroplating industry, in some laboratory procedures, and are produced from combustion of plastics, polyurethane, wool, silk, nylon, nitriles, rubber, and even some paper products. It works by making your body unable to use oxygen, without which life cannot be sustained.

Unlike the hastily chomped cyanide-containing suicide pill in the latest James Bond movie, in the real world, most sources of cyanide are more mundane. But in 1989, the Food and Drug Administration quarantined all fruit imported from Chile after traces of cyanide were found in 2 Chilean grapes. Symptoms of mild to moderate poisoning are mostly of a general nature. There may be headaches, dizziness, unsteadiness of pit, and a feeling of suffocation and nausea. As poisoning progresses there may be difficulty in breathing.

Signs and Symptoms of Cyanide Poisoning

Signs and symptoms of cyanide poisoning primarily are nonspecific and reflect largely the effects of oxygen deprivation on the heart and brain. Early manifestations include headache, anxiety, blurred vision, and confusion. Later manifestations of exposure are cardiac arrhythmias, seizure, coma, and death.

Sign and symptoms may include the following:

  • Headache.
  • Dizziness.
  • Pink or red skin color
  • Weakness.
  • Eye irritation (itching, burning).
  • Nausea/vomiting.
  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Rapid breathing.

Treatment for Cyanide Poisoning

Cyanide poisoning is treated with specific antidotes and supportive medical care in a hospital setting. The most important thing is for victims to seek medical treatment as soon as possible.

Treatment may include:

  • Supportive measures such as administration of 100% oxygen, cardiopulmonary support, sodium bicarbonate, anticonvulsants, adrenaline etc.
  • If the person has carbon monoxide poisoning as well, hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be used if available. This requires placing the person in a special chamber that will give an extremely high amount of oxygen. Controversy still exists as to hyperbaric oxygen’s definite role in the treatment of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Reduction or elimination of the source; immediate removal of the victim from site of exposure.
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