There are two important categories of sub-
stances which act locally on the skin, eyes, or
mucous membranes and cause damage
through direct contact. These are acids (cor-
rosives) and bases (caustics). Although these
two categories are distinct and there are sig-
nificant differences in the physiological ef-
fects of contact with them, the term
corrosive is recognized as a generic term
for the action that occurs upon contact with ei-
ther an acid or a base. The terms corrosive
and noncorrosive, as used in this chapter,
should be understood to represent the generic
and not the specific. When specifically dis-
cussing acids or bases in this chapter, the
terms acid or base (or alkali), respec-
tively, will be used.
Ingested substances can be absorbed into the body
and transported to a distant site with systemic
action(s). In such situations, the poisonous substance
may cause few effectsor even no effectat the site
of contact or absorption, but it may have severe
Ingestion of substances that do not produce local
effects can be divided into two types:
nontoxic substances (latex paint, dirt, silica gel,
spider plant), and
potentially toxic substances (poisonous fish,
medications, heavy metals (lead, mercury),
pesticides, and personal care products).
Episodes involving the ingestion of non-toxic
substances do not require decontamination of the gut.
(Swallowing a non-toxic foreign body, however, like a
coin or button battery in a child, may result in choking
and require prompt medical intervention.)
The toxicity range of absorbed poisons extends
from essentially non-toxic to extremely toxic
(remember Paracelsus dose).
substances with a low order of toxicity may result in
the production of only minor systemic effects (nausea,
vomiting, diarrhea), effects that are mild, self-limiting,
and do not require significant medical intervention.
NOTE: Do not induce unnecessary vomiting
to discourage a patient from repeating a
voluntary ingestion again.
The many different noncorrosive substances have
the common characteristic of irritating the stomach.
They produce nausea, vomiting, convulsions, and
severe abdominal pain. The victim may complain of a
strange taste, and the lips, tongue, and mouth may look
different than normal. Shock may also occur.
Examples of noncorrosives are listed in table 5-2.
First aid for most forms of noncorrosive poisoning
centers on quickly emptying the stomach of the
irritating substance. The following steps are suggested:
1. Maintain an open airway. Be prepared to give
2. Dilute the poison by having the conscious
victim drink one to two glasses of water or milk.
3. Empty the stomach using emetic, gastric lavage,
adsorbent, and/or cathartic.
a. Giving an emetic is a preferred method for
emptying the contents of the stomach. It is
Sources of Contact
Dyes, insecticides, paint, printer=s ink,
Antifoulant paint, batteries, canvas
preservative, copper plating, electro-
plating, fungicides, insecticides, solder-
ing, wood preservatives
Bactericides, batteries, dental supplies
and appliances, disinfectants, dyes,
fungicides, ink, insecticides, labora-
tories, photography, wood preserva-
Incendiaries, matches, pesticides, rat
Batteries, cleaning solutions, ink,
photographic film, silver polish,
Disinfectants, electroplating, fungi-
cides, galvanizing, ink, insecticides,
matches, metal plating and cutting,
paint, soldering, wood preservatives
Table 5-2.Common Stomach Irritants and Possible Sources