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Poison Center Helpline 1-800-222-1222

Insecticide

There are almost 900 different bug killers that can be used in the United States.

The most common symptom of exposure to pyrethroids includes a skin rash.  Other, more serious symptoms associated with large exposures include dizziness, tremors, cough, or trouble breathing.   If you suspect that someone is having symptoms from any insecticide, call the IPC at 1-800-222-1222.

General Tips

  • Do not apply a household insecticide directly to the skin.
  • Do not use outdoor-use insecticides to kill bugs inside your home. There is a major difference in the safety level of outdoor and indoor products.
  • Follow all product instructions carefully.
  • Make sure everyone in the household knows when and where insecticides are being used.
  • After application, store all pesticides in an area inaccessible by children such as a locked cabinet or garden shed (remember the caps are child-resistant, not child-proof).
  • Keep pesticides in their original containers, never in containers that could be mistaken for juice or food.
  • Never use or purchase any pesticide that does not have an EPA registration number, directions for use, or ingredients on the package. Illicitly marketed pesticides are nearly always more toxic than those approved for indoor use.
  • If you set off a ‘bug-bomb’ or pesticide fogger, always follow directions as they appear on the container. Make sure to do the fumigation on a day when you are able to leave the home for the appropriate amount of time.  Make sure to ventilate and vacuum the area, after the fogger has been set off, but before allowing your family to spend time in the room. Remove toys, dishes, sheets, etc from a room if you set off a bug-bomb or pesticide fogger.
  • Heed package warnings about shutting off pilot lights, or other sources of flame that could ignite.

Organophosphates

A small number of insecticides belong to a class known as organophosphates.The chemicals in this class kill insects by disrupting their brains and nervous systems. Unfortunately, these chemicals also can harm the brains and nervous systems of animals and humans.  These chemicals stop a key enzyme in the nervous system called cholinesterase from working, and this can make people ill.

Poisoning from organophosphates can happen through:

  • Ingestion, eating or drinking something that has an organophosphate in it;
  • Inhalation, breathing in air that has an organophosphate in it; or
  • Dermal contact, having an organophosphate touch your skin or open wound.

Please note: Just because you come into contact with an organophosphate does not mean you will get sick from it.

Symptoms of mild organophosphate poisoning may include the following:

  • Runny nose • sweating • stomach cramps
  • Chest tightness • nausea • muscle twitching
  • Shortness of breath • vomiting • confusion Severely poisoned people may develop seizures, paralysis or coma; some may die.

Organophosphates can be very toxic. However, certain classes of this group are more poisonous than others. Overall, the effects of an organophosphate will depend on the type of chemical the person comes into contact with, concentration of exposure, length of time and way the person is exposed. A highly concentrated solution or large amount in the air is more likely to cause severe effects, including death.

If an organophosphate is ingested, the person’s stomach may be pumped at a hospital.  Other times, the person is given activated charcoal to drink.  Activated charcoal is a substance that binds with the poison in the stomach to help the poison pass out of the body naturally. Hospitals and other health care experts have medicines that reverse the effects of organophosphate poisonings.

Prevention of illness after contact:

  • Leave the area where the chemical was released and move to fresh air. 
  • Remove clothing.      
  • Quickly take off clothing that may have the chemical on it. If possible, any clothing that has to be pulled over the head should be cut off the body instead so the chemical does not get near the eyes, mouth or nose.  If helping other people remove their clothing, try to avoid touching any contaminated areas.  
  • Wash affected areas. As quickly as possible, wash any chemical from the skin with lots of soap and water.      
  • If the eyes are burning or vision is blurred, rinse your eyes with plain water for 10 to 15 minutes.      
  • If contact lenses are worn, remove them and put them with the contaminated clothing. Do not put the contacts back in. If eyeglasses are worn, wash them with soap and water. Eyeglasses can be put back on after they are washed.      
  • If you are wearing jewelry that you can wash with soap and water, wash it and put it back on. If it cannot be washed, put it with the contaminated clothing.   
  • Discard contaminated items.      
  • Place the clothing and any other contaminated items inside a plastic bag. Avoid touching contaminated areas of the clothing. If you can't avoid touching contaminated areas, or you aren't sure where the contaminated areas are, wear rubber gloves or use tongs, sticks or similar objects. Anything that touches the contaminated clothing should also be placed in the bag.      
  • Seal the bag, and then seal that bag inside another plastic bag.      
  • Call the local county health department right away.       
  • When the local or state health department or emergency personnel arrive, tell them what you did with your clothes. The health department or emergency personnel will arrange for further disposal. Do not handle the plastic bags yourself.

There is no vaccine for organophosphate poisoning.

If you or someone you know is showing symptoms of organophosphate poisoning, call your healthcare provider or the Illinois Poison Center right away.  The toll-free number for the poison center is 1-800-222-1222.

If someone you know is unconscious or having trouble breathing, call 911 to be transported to the closest emergency department immediately.