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- An antidote is an agent, remedy or treatment that counteracts the effect(s) of a poison or toxin.
Antidotes work by a variety of mechanisms. Here are just a few examples:
- Drug overdoses are often treated with oral doses of activated charcoal which binds the poison tightly, making it harder for your body to absorb the poison in the gastrointestinal tract.
- Syrup of ipecac removes a poison from your stomach by inducing vomiting.
- The antidote for ethylene glycol poisoning (from drinking antifreeze, for example), is ethyl alcohol; this keeps the body busily metabolizing the chemically similar alcohol instead of the toxin.
- Calcium gluconate gel is a topical (skin-applied) antidote for hydrofluoric acid exposure; it works by trapping the fluoride ion, F-, as CaF2.
- Atropine is an antidote for organo-phosphate poisoning caused by certain pesticides or nerve gases. It works by binding to your nervous system's acetylcholine receptors, protecting them against the excess acetylcholine produced when organo-phosphates bind to an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase.
Antidotes are usually listed on an MSDS for use by emergency personnel. Some antidotes are useful only for certain kinds of exposures such as skin absorption, ingestion or inhalation so administration of an antidote should only be done after contacting a poison control center or other medical professional. When seeking emergency treatment for a chemical exposure, it is very useful to take the MSDS and label (if feasible and not dangerous) with you to the emergency room.
You can contact the American Association of Poison Control Centers in an emergency situation by calling (800) 222-1222 (or call your local hospital emergency room).
See the references in the poison entry for more about emergency poisoning procedures and resources.
Get your handy DOT warning labels and placards at Safety Emporium.
See also: activated charcoal, catharsis, emetic, highly toxic, poison.
Additional definitions from Google and OneLook.
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