Organophosphate Poisoning

By Angeline Nzyoka

Organophosphates are chemical compounds widely used for various purposes, including pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, and nerve agents. While they have proven effective for their intended purposes, they pose significant risks to human health and the environment. Accidental exposure, misuse, or improper handling of these chemicals can lead to organophosphate poisoning, which can have serious health consequences. Given the potential dangers associated with organophosphates, proper safety measures, handling protocols, and precautions are essential when dealing with these substances to protect both human health and the environment.

Organophosphate poisoning can occur due to occupational or accidental exposure, deliberate ingestion, or chemical warfare with nerve gases. The signs and symptoms of organophosphate poisoning can vary significantly due to differences in the amount of exposure, the toxicity of the agent, and the type of exposure.

Common Signs and Symptoms Include:

  • Increased Saliva and Tears: Noticing excessive production of saliva and tears.
  • Drowsiness and Confusion: Feeling unusually tired and confused.
  • Increased Urination: Experiencing abnormally frequent urination.
  • Changes in Heart Rhythm: Observing irregularities in the heartbeat.
  • Diarrhea, Nausea, and Vomiting: Suffering from digestive disturbances.
  • Muscle Tremors and Weakness: Experiencing muscle shaking and weakness.
  • Anxiety, Tiredness, Hallucinations, and Insomnia: Dealing with mental and emotional disturbances.
  • Seizures: Experiencing uncontrolled body movements or convulsions.
  • Difficulty or Slow Breathing: Facing challenges or reduced breathing rate.
  • Headaches: Dealing with persistent or severe headaches.

In kids, the clinical picture may differ slightly. Common symptoms include seizures and mental status changes such as lethargy or coma. Additionally, children may exhibit flaccid muscle weakness, constricted pupils (miosis), and excessive salivation.

It is of utmost importance to be aware of the risks associated with organophosphates and to take appropriate precautions to prevent exposure. Proper handling, storage, and use of these chemicals are vital to safeguarding both our health and the environment.

Anyone with symptoms of organophosphate poisoning should see a doctor. If an insecticide might have come into contact with the skin, clothing is removed, and the skin is washed. Everyone should avoid contaminating themselves while providing care. Quick action can be life-saving in such cases.

Emergency Medicine Kenya Foundation