Skip Navigation
MUSC mobile menu



  • Class of 2019

    Welcome Family Medicine Class of 2020 Residents

  • Class of 2019

    Welcome Transitional Year Class of 2018 Residents

  • Dr. Steyer talking to residents

Acute Pesticide Poisoning

Do You Know What To Do For Acute Pesticide Poisoning?


Pesticides can enter the body in three ways: dermal exposure, ingestion, and respiratory exposure:

  1. Dermal exposure occurs when a pesticide is spilled or splashed onto the body or when a person is exposed to drift from a pesticide application. A person may also come into contact with pesticide residues. This can occur when harvesting crops or when a child crawls on a carpet that has been previously sprayed. The body can rapidly absorb certain pesticides splashed into the eyes during mixing or when sprayed onto the eyes during application.
  2. Pesticides may enter the body through ingestion. This is the most toxic route of exposure and it accounts for most of the pesticide poisonings in children.
  3. Pesticides may also enter the body through the respiratory tract. Although this route may be less important toxicologically, it is a significant route for irritation caused by exposure to pesticides and for allergic reactions.


If the victim is not breathing …

  • Contact EMS or send for help.
  • Give CPR. If the victim ingested a pesticide, clear out the mouth and wipe the face before giving CPR.
  • Continue CPR until help arrives.
  • If dermally exposed, remove the clothing and wash the skin as soon as possible. Use protective gloves.
  • Take the pesticide label or container to the hospital. The label has important information for the physician. Don't let the container contaminate others.

If the victim is breathing and …

  • ...ingested a pesticide - rinse out the mouth with plenty of water;
  • ...was dermally exposed - remove the contaminated clothing and wash the skin and/or hair with soap and water;
  • ...was splashed in the eyes - remove contact lenses and flush eyes with water for 10 minutes;
  • ...breathed in a pesticide - move the victim to fresh air.

Then …

  • Contact the patient's physician or the Poison Control Center.
  • Transport the victim to the nearest medical care facility or to a facility designated by the physician.
  • Take the pesticide label or container with you. The label has important information for the physician.

Did you know …

Acute pesticide poisoning is a rare event in South Carolina. There has been a steady decline in the number of cases since the early 1980s. The Agromedicine Program has reported on hospitalized and non-hospitalized cases of acute pesticide poisoning in the state over the past 25 years. The most recent study (published in the February 2004 issue of the Journal of the South Carolina Medical Association) covered the years 1997-2001. Key findings are:

  • There were 148 hospitalizations in five years or about 30 cases per year.
  • 50% of the cases were accidental exposures among children and adults at home.
  • 40% of the hospitalizations were suicide attempts.
  • Less than 5% of the cases were occupationally related.
  • Only one death was reported.
  • For each case hospitalized, there are an estimated 5.8 emergency department cases.

Even though acute pesticide poisonings in South Carolina are rare events, do you know what to do if pesticide poisoning is suspected? Follow the guidelines and consult the experts listed inside this brochure!


  • Read and follow all label directions before use.
  • Wear protective clothing and equipment.
  • Do not store pesticides in anything other than in their original labeled containers.
  • Store all pesticides out of the reach of children in a locked cabinet.
  • Keep all people and animals from entering recently treated areas.
  • See the label for reentry instructions.
  • If a pesticide is spilled on the skin, wash immediately with plenty of soap and water.
  • Change clothing if it becomes contaminated. Wash the contaminated clothing separately from other laundry in hot water and detergent.
  • Do not wear leather work gloves or boots while mixing or applying pesticides. These items cannot be decontaminated.
  • Your county office of the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is an important source of information on pesticide safety and for pesticide label
Palmetto Poison Control Center1-800-922-1117
In Columbia: 777-1117
National Pesticide Telecommunications Network1-800-858-7378
(9:30 a.m. - 7:30 p.m. EST, M-F)
Division of Health Hazard Evaluation / DHEC

In Columbia: 737-4170
(normal business hours)


View MUSC's Facebook page Follow MUSC on Twitter View the MUSC Health Youtube channel Read the MUSC Health blog circle arrow MUSC_TAG_SOLID_1C