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Grass and weed killer poisoning

Definition

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 article is for information only. DO NOT use it to treat or manage an actual poisoning. If you or someone you are with is poisoned, 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 is the poisonous ingredient in some weed killers.

Where Found

Glyphosate is in weed killers with these brand names:

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

Other products may also contain glyphosate.

Symptoms

Symptoms of glyphosate poisoning include:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Anxiety
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Coma
  • Blue lips or fingernails (rare)
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Irritation in the mouth and throat
  • Low blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting (may vomit blood)
  • Weakness

Home Care

Seek medical help right away. DO NOT make a person throw up unless poison control or a health care provider tells you to. If the chemical is on the skin or in the eyes, flush with lots of water for at least 15 minutes.

Before Calling Emergency

Have this information ready:

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

Poison Control

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. 

What to Expect at the Emergency Room

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

Exposure to glyphosate is not as harmful as exposure to other phosphates. But contact with a very large amount of it can cause severe symptoms. Care will begin by contaminating the person while starting other treatments.

The health care provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. The person may receive:

  • Blood and urine tests
  • Breathing support, including oxygen, tube through the mouth into the throat, and breathing machine
  • Chest x-ray
  • EKG (electrocardiogram, or heart tracing)
  • Intravenous fluids (through a vein)
  • Medicines to reverse the effects of the poison and treat symptoms
  • Tube placed down the nose and into the stomach (sometimes)
  • Washing of the skin (irrigation), perhaps every few hours for several days

Outlook (Prognosis)

People who continue to improve over the first 4 to 6 hours after receiving medical treatment usually fully recover.

References

Cannon RD, Ruha A-M. Insecticides, herbicides, and rodenticides. In: Adams JG, ed. Emergency Medicine. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:chap 146.

Rhee JW. Insecticides. In: Marx JA, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 163.

Review Date:7/12/2015
Reviewed By:Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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Outcome Data

No data available for this condition/procedure.

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