Organophosphate Poisoning



What is Organophosphate poisoning?

Organophosphates are a common class of insecticides. But large doses of organophosphates can also harm people and other animals. Organophosphate poisoning can occur when you’re exposed to them for too long or at high levels.

Organophosphates are typically colorless-to-brown liquids at room temperature. Some may be unscented, while others have a fruit-like smell.

How common is Organophosphate poisoning?

Researchers say as many as 25 million agricultural workers across the developing world have at least one episode of organophosphate poisoning per year. It’s being seen with more frequency in areas where there is limited access to insecticide safety gear, such as suits and breathing apparatuses. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of Organophosphate poisoning?

Organophosphate poisoning symptoms can range from mild to severe. In more severe cases, a person may die from the toxicity.

The length and strength of the exposure will determine the nature of someone’s symptoms. Symptoms may start in as little as a few minutes or after several hours.

Symptoms of mild exposure to organophosphates include:

  • Blurry or impaired vision
  • Watery eyes
  • Narrowed pupils
  • Stinging eyes
  • Nausea
  • Runny nose
  • Muscle twitching
  • Glassy eyes
  • Extra saliva
  • Headache
  • Muscle fatigue or weakness
  • Agitation

Symptoms of moderate exposure to organophosphate include:

  • Dizziness
  • Very narrow pupils
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle tremors
  • Muscle twitching
  • Drooling
  • Disorientation
  • Wheezing or coughing
  • Severe diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sneezing
  • Uncontrolled urination or bowel movements
  • Excessive phlegm
  • Muscle weakness
  • Severe vomiting

Symptoms of emergency-level exposure to organophosphate include:

  • Confusion
  • Narrow pupils
  • Convulsions
  • Coma
  • Agitation
  • Excessive secretions, such as saliva, sweat, tears, and mucus
  • Irregular or slow heartbeat
  • Collapsing
  • Breathing that is ineffective stops

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes Organophosphate poisoning?

The people most at-risk for unintentional organophosphate poisoning are those who live or work on or near farms. You can also get organophosphate poisoning by consuming contaminated food or water. The most common unintentional exposure routes are through breathing and contact with the skin.

People who intentionally expose themselves to organophosphates tend to inhale and ingest it. These concentrated, high doses are often fatal.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for Organophosphate poisoning?

There are many risk factors for Organophosphate poisoning, such as:

  • Pesticide availability
  • History of self-harm or recent interpersonal conflict
  • Mental illness
  • Alcohol or drug abuse

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is Organophosphate poisoning diagnosed?

As with any poisoning through chemical exposure, a doctor will work with the person to figure out what chemical is causing the symptoms. The rapid onset of symptoms is how organophosphate exposure is often determined.

A doctor will also probably order blood work, and possibly urine samples if the person with organophosphate poisoning can cooperate. These tests will help determine how severe a person’s exposure was and the right treatment.

How is Organophosphate poisoning treated?

As with many poisoning and chemical exposure cases, the first step is stabilizing the person being treated. Emergency workers will often:

  • Help the person return to normal breathing patterns
  • Decontaminate the person’s body to prevent further damage
  • Use intravenous (iv) fluids to remove toxins from the blood and body

In less severe cases, the person’s breathing is often the priority. A doctor may still attempt to decontaminate the body, but the focus of treatment shifts to keeping a person breathing normally.

Atropine is a commonly used drug to help a person’s breathing after chemical exposure. A doctor may also give medications, such as pralidoxime, to help with neuromuscular problems.

In the most severe cases where a seizure is likely, a doctor may prescribe benzodiazepines.

People who often work with organophosphates should discuss with their doctor the options for having an emergency injection of atropine.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Organophosphate poisoning?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you reduce your risk of Organophosphate poisoning:

  • For people who may come in contact with organophosphate, it is important to be able to identify this to avoid unnecessary exposure.
  • People working on a farm should wear protective gear, during and after applying pesticides containing organophosphate to the crops. Protective gear should include covering the head and neck, wearing a mask or respirator, and using eye protection.
  • Any exposure to organophosphates should be washed off immediately with water and a mild alkaline soap. Avoid the use of detergents, as they may increase absorption by removing the skin’s protective oil.
  • Anyone working with organophosphates should wash before eating, drinking, smoking, or urinating and always take a thorough bath or shower at the end of the workday.
  • For people living or working near farms that use organophosphate, staying indoors with windows shut during application may help limit exposure.
  • It may be useful to ask the farmer of local fields if they use organophosphate and to be warned when it is going to be applied. People who have wells near farms may want to have their water tested.
  • For others, prevention may be as simple as thoroughly washing all fruits and vegetables. This can help prevent accidental exposure from contaminated food.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Review Date: August 24, 2018 | Last Modified: August 24, 2018

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