What is cyanide poisoning?
Cyanide Poisoning Care Guide
- Cyanide Poisoning
- En Espanol
Cyanide is a poisonous chemical that makes it difficult for your blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body. It is usually found as a solid or a gas, and may smell like almonds. You may be accidently exposed, or it may be used as a weapon. Cyanide poisoning can have severe symptoms and be life-threatening.
What causes cyanide poisoning?
Cyanide can be inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed through the skin. Cyanide is most harmful if you are exposed in an enclosed space, such as a building. Gas may be created as a chemical reaction when a building is on fire. The chemical may leak from a nearby building where cyanide is used. The soil, groundwater, and well water may become contaminated. Food grown in soil or water containing cyanide may also contain it.
What are the signs and symptoms of cyanide poisoning?
Symptoms may begin sooner and be more severe if you breathe cyanide:
- Itchy or burning eyes
- Nausea and vomiting
- Headache or a seizure
- Rapid breathing, restlessness, or confusion
- Weakness, dizziness, or you faint
- Very fast or very slow heartbeat
How is cyanide poisoning diagnosed?
Your caregiver may take samples of your blood, urine, or bowel movement to check for signs of cyanide poisoning.
How is cyanide poisoning treated?
You may be given a cyanide antidote to reverse your signs and symptoms. If you swallowed cyanide, do not make yourself vomit. Do not drink liquids.
What should I do if I am exposed to cyanide?
- Get to fresh air: If you think cyanide is being used as a gas or spray, leave the area. If it is released outdoors, move away from the area. If it was released indoors, go outside. Cyanide is lighter than air, so it rises. If you cannot get away from the gas, lie on the ground and take shallow breaths.
- Remove clothing: Remove any clothing that may have cyanide on it. Do not shake your clothing. Put your clothes in a plastic bag and close the top. If possible, put the first bag into a second bag and close the top. Ask your caregiver if and how you should dispose of the bag.
- Wash your eyes, skin, or hair: Rinse your eyes for several minutes under running water. Wash your skin and hair with soap and water.
When should I seek immediate care?
Seek care immediately or call 911 if:
- You think you have been exposed to cyanide.
You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.