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Grass and weed killer poisoning

Many weed killers contain dangerous chemicals that are harmful if swallowed. This article discusses poisoning by swallowing weed killers containing a chemical called glyphosate.

This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Alternative Names

Weedoff poisoning; Roundup poisoning

Poisonous Ingredient

  • Glyphosate

Where Found

Glyphosate is found in various weed killers, including the brands listed below:

  • Roundup
  • Bronco
  • Glifonox
  • Kleen-up
  • Rodeo
  • Weedoff

Note: This list may not be all inclusive.

Symptoms

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Anxiety
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Coma
  • Cyanosis (blue lips or fingernails -- rare)
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Irritation of mouth and throat
  • Low blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Tearing, increased
  • Vomiting (may vomit blood)
  • Weakness

Home Treatment

Seek immediate medical help. Do NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care professional.

If the chemical is on the skin or in the eyes, flush with lots of water for at least 15 minutes.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • Patient's age, weight, and condition
  • Name of the product (ingredients and strengths, if known)
  • Time it was swallowed
  • Amount swallowed

Poison Control, or a local emergency number

The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.

This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Take the container with you to the hospital, if possible.

See: Poison control center - emergency number

What to expect at the emergency room

The health care provider will measure and monitor the patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Blood and urine tests will be done. The patient may receive:

  • Fluids through a vein (IV)
  • Medicines to treat symptoms
  • Tube through the mouth into the stomach to wash out the stomach (gastric lavage )
  • Washing of the skin (irrigation) -- perhaps every few hours for several days

Expectations (prognosis)

Patients who continue to improve over the first 4 to 6 hours (after medical treatment) usually recover.

References

Aaron CK. Pesticides. In: Marx J, ed. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 6th ed. St Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2006:chap 161.

Updated: 8/3/2011

Eric Perez, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.


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