Nerve Gas Poisoning

Nerve Gas Poisoning

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    Nerve gas poisoning most often occurs among military personnel in instances of chemical warfare. Civilians are at very little risk for nerve gas poisoning except in extreme circumstances such as a terrorist attack. You can contact the Centers for Disease Control for more information.

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    It is possible for nerve gas poisoning to be cured. Pretreatment drugs such as pyridostigmine bromide can prevent nerve gas poisoning from occurring at all. Post exposure antidotes such as atropine and diazepam administered regularly until the threat is past may prevent the effects of nerve gas poisoning on the nervous system.

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    Nerve gas poisoning can occur after the unlikely instance of exposure to a high amount of nerve gas. Decontamination of exposed clothing, skin, and hair is the first step to combating the effects of nerve gas. Decontamination may be followed by the administration of antidotes such as diazepam, atropine, and oximes to prevent initial and/or continued physical effects.

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    Nerve gas poisoning occurs when nerve gases enter the body and interfere with cell respiration, depriving the cells of oxygen and causing a buildup of acetylcholine. Pretreatment antidotes work by interrupting the interference of nerve gases upon cell respiration so that the cells can properly dispose of acetylcholine and allow nerve endings to function properly. Post exposure medications work by preventing absorption of excess acetylcholine.

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    Nerve gas poisoning is typically treated by pre- and post-exposure antidote drugs such as pyridostigmine bromide, atropine, and diazepam. An alternative to drug treatment includes avoidance of exposure, which can be accomplished if you know of the threat beforehand. If you have access, you can wear protective clothing and equipment such as gas masks and semi permeable carbon clothing. You can go indoors, seal all windows and doors, turn off the air conditioner, and seek the highest level of your building. You should also decontaminate yourself by removing and sealing all non protective clothing and washing with lots of soap and water from head to toe.

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    Nerve gas poisoning can be treated with drugs before and after exposure. Some drugs, such as pyridostigmine bromide, can only be used as a pretreatment and must be discontinued after exposure occurs. The most common drug treatments for nerve gas poisoning are atropine and diazepam, which act as antidotes to most nerve gas toxins. Oximes, such as 2-PAM, Toxogonin R, and Contrathion R, act as anticonvulsants and protect the musculoskeletal system from damage.

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    Always assist the person in seeking medical care if there has been exposure to nerve gas. Initially, care for someone who has been exposed to nerve gas by assisting with decontamination. While wearing gloves and other protective clothing and gear, take the poisoned person's clothing and personal belongings and seal them in a plastic bag. Provide soap, shampoo, or other cleansing agents and a soft sponge or cloth for the person to use in a shower. Help the person to soap and rinse well; reminding them not to scrub the skin too roughly as small cuts or abrasions will assist absorption of poison. After decontamination, administer antidotes regularly as directed until signs and symptoms decrease or disappear.

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    Nerve gas poisoning is generally treated with atropine, diazepam, and a class of drugs known as oximes. However, atropine may require multiple dosages and may not be effective against the musculoskeletal effects of nerve gas poisoning. Diazepam is generally efficient only within the first 40 minutes of exposure to nerve agents, and oximes may become ineffective within a few minutes. Other drugs, such as benzodiazepine, may cause respiratory and sedation problems. The pretreatment drug pyridostigmine bromide can cause gastrointestinal upset, shortness of breath, and vision problems.

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    Nerve gas poisoning interferes with cell respiration and the breakdown of acetylcholine, which regulates interaction between nerves and muscle tissue. Neurological effects of nerve gas poisoning can include seizures, loss of consciousness, and limited vision. In extreme cases, nerve gas poisoning can include paralysis, heart and lung depression, severe convulsions, and behavioral or cognitive problems.

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    Nerve gas poisoning may require months of recovery time and consistent drug treatment for some symptoms to disappear. There may be long-term or permanent neurological and behavioral effects. Also, it is possible to suffer permanent severe nerve or brain damage.