absorbed through the respiratory tract. Liquid nerve
agents may also be absorbed through the skin, eyes,
mouth, and membranes of the nose. Nerve agents may
also be absorbed through the stomach when ingesting
contaminated food or water.
A protective mask and hood should be used to
protect the face and neck, eyes, mouth, and respiratory
tract against nerve agent spray, vapor, and aerosol. To
prevent inhaling an incapacitating or lethal dose, you
should hold your breath and put on the mask within 9
seconds of the first warning of a nerve agent presence.
Liquid nerve agents penetrate ordinary clothing
rapidly. However, significant absorption through the
skin requires a period of minutes. The effects may be
reduced by quickly removing contaminated clothing
and neutralizing liquid nerve agent on the skin by
washing off, blotting, or wiping away. Prompt
decontamination (decon) of the skin is imperative.
Decon of nerve agents on the skin within 1 minute after
contamination is perhaps 10 times more effective than
it would be if delayed 5 minutes. A nerve agent on the
skin can be removed effectively by using the M291
skin decontamination kit (fig. 13-28). The M291 skin
decontamination kit is replacing the M258A1 (fig.
13-29). Upon receipt of the M291, discontinue use of
the M258A1 on the skin. Detailed instructions on the
use of skin decontamination kits can be found in Navy
NAVMED P-5041 and in the kit itself. Liquid nerve
agent in the eye is absorbed faster than on the skin and
is extremely dangerous; immediately irrigate the eye
with an abundant amount of water.
Diagnosis of Nerve Agent Poisoning
Nerve agent poisoning may be identified from the
characteristic signs and symptoms. It is important that
all service members know the following mild and
severe signs and symptoms of nerve agent poisoning.
Service members who have most or all of the
symptoms listed must immediately receive first aid
(self-aid or buddy aid).
Self-aid is provided by the person affected by
chemical agents. They know who they are, where they
are, and what they are doing. They are able to move
around freely without assistance. Buddy aid is
provided when individuals cannot care for themselves
and require assistance.
MILD POISONING (SELF-AID).Casualties
with mild poisoning may experience most or all of the
Unexplained runny nose
Unexplained sudden headache
Difficulty in seeing
Tightness in the chest or difficulty in breathing
Wheezing and coughing
Localized sweating and muscular twitching in
the area of the contaminated skin
Nausea with or without vomiting
Tachycardia followed by bradycardia
Figure 13-28.M291 skin decontamination kit.