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Managing exposure

If you or someone else has been exposed to pesticides, the quicker you get medical aid, the better. The wrong treatment may worsen a patient's condition. Read the advice on the pesticide label and material safety data sheets. Know how to get medical help and have a list of actions nearby, ready to be taken.

First Aid

Before using a pesticide, read the label for advice on what to do in an emergency. The first aid section will tell you what to do if pesticide poisoning occurs.

Be aware of the symptoms of exposure.

Symptoms of pesticide exposure

Mild poisoning or early symptoms of acute poisoning Moderate poisoning or early symptoms of acute poisoning Severe or acute poisoning fever

headache
fatigue
weakness
dizziness
restlessness
nervousness
perspiration
nausea
diarrhoea
loss of appetite
loss of weight
thirst
moodiness
soreness in joints
skin irritation
eye irritation
irritation of the nose and throat

nausea
diarrhoea
excessive saliva
stomach cramps, excessive perspiration, trembling
no muscle coordination, muscle twitches
extreme weakness, fatigue
nervous distress mental confusion
blurred vision
difficulty in breathing, cough
rapid pulse
flushed or yellow skin, weeping
vomiting
constricted pupils of eyes

convulsions
fever
inability to breathe
increased rate of breathing
intense thirst
pinpoint pupils
uncontrollable muscle twitches
vomiting
unconsciousness

Prepare an action list

Prepare a "pesticide exposure action list" so that you know what to do and who to call. Here are some ideas but also check the web pages listed below for more advice. 

If you are poisoned:

  • stop work
  • get away from the source of poisoning
  • get medical help at once.

To help a poisoned person 

Put on PPE to avoid becoming contaminated yourself. You will need a respirator if the victim is in a closed space.

  • Stop the victim from continuing to work.
  • Move the victim away from the source, to a place that is well aired.
  • Get medical help.
  • Check the first aid section on the label (or material safety data sheets) for next steps.
  • Ring the emergency telephone number on the pesticide label.

Warn those around you of the risks in the area and ask them to be ready to help you if needed. 

Remove the victim's contaminated PPE and clothing. 

Wash contaminated skin and hair with clean water and soap. If eyes are contaminated then keep the eyes open and gently flush them for 15 minutes with clean water. Direct the water into eye at the outer edge so that the water runs towards the nose. 

If the victim is unconscious: Check his breathing and pulse and put him in the recovery position. If there are no signs of breathing, or pulse, then begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation [CPR]. 

Keep the victim at rest and warm in the shade away from direct sunlight. Do not allow the person to smoke or drink. 

Note what you saw at the scene. You may be asked by medical staff and others for facts that will help them identify the best treatment.

  • Symptoms [e.g. headaches] are what the operator may report to you.
  • Signs [e.g. vomiting] are what you can see is happening to the operator.

Tell the medical staff, the name of the pesticide. Give them a copy of the product label[s] and material safety data sheet[s] (MSDS). 

Report the event and if you can, use photos to help show what has happened and how. In some countries, safety authorities will require this information by law. 

Read more about the 'symptoms of pesticide poisoning' from www.extension.org.

Sources

Code of practice for using plant protection products. Emergency procedures and action plans (417KB pdf) 

Pesticides: Health and Safety. Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisonings

Pesticides - Harmful Effects and Emergency Response (106 KB pdf)