What is insecticide poisoning?

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Serious cases of insecticide poisoning are caused by organophosphate and carbamate forms of insecticides especially if used for suicide attempts. Due to the deadly properties of insecticides, they are deadly to humans.

Organophosphates include parathion, malathion, dursban and sarin. Some of these compounds are derived from nerve gases. As for carbamates, they include carbaryl, fenobucarb and carbofuran. When it comes to pyrethroids and pyrethrins which are widely used insecticides, they were derived from flowers and not considered harmful to humans.

Several insecticides can cause poisoning after being ingested, inhaled or absorbed via the skin. Some insecticides are odorless, thus the individual is not aware that he/she is exposed. Both carbamate and organophosphate insecticides triggers the erratic firing of the nerves which causes several organs to become overly active and later on stop functioning. As for pyrethrins, they occasionally trigger allergic reactions while pyrethroids rarely cause any issues.

What are the indications of insecticide poisoning?

Organophosphates and carbamates can trigger the following symptoms:

Several insecticides can cause poisoning after being ingested, inhaled or absorbed via the skin.
  • Blurred vision
  • Eye tearing
  • Salivation
  • Coughing episodes
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Frequent urination and bowel movements
  • Drop in the blood pressure
  • Low and weak heart rate that becomes erratic
  • Shortness of breath or muscle weakness that can be fatal

The symptoms usually last for hours up to days after exposure to carbamates, but weakness can persist for weeks after exposure to organophosphates. As for pyrethrins, they can trigger eye tearing, sneezing, coughing and occasional difficulty breathing. Take note that severe symptoms rarely develop.


A diagnosis of insecticide poisoning is usually based on the symptoms and the description of events surrounding the poisoning. Blood tests are done to confirm carbamate or organophosphate poisoning.

In case the skin of an individual was exposed to the insecticide, clothing must be removed and the skin is thoroughly washed. An individual with symptoms of organophosphate poisoning must consult a doctor.

Atropine is usually administered intravenously which can alleviate most of the symptoms. Pralidoxime which is also given intravenously can hasten the recovery of nerve function, thus eliminating the cause of the symptoms. When it comes to the symptoms of carbamate poisoning, they can be alleviated by atropine but not by pralidoxime. As for pyrethrin insecticide poisoning, the condition resolves without requiring treatment.

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