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5 Things You Need to Know About Arsenic Poisoning Symptoms

By Contributor ; Updated August 14, 2017

Natural is not Always Safe

Arsenic is a naturally-occurring substance that is present in small amounts in rocks, soil and ground water. It has industrial uses in some metal working and mining endeavors. Arsenic is also an ingredient in rat poison and pesticides. Although used medicinally throughout history, arsenic is highly toxic and causes death whether ingested in one large dose or through long-term exposure at lower doses.

No Time to Waste

A person can inhale or swallow arsenic, depending on whether it is in a solid or liquid substance or a spray. Symptoms start about 30 minutes after ingesting arsenic with salivation and a bad taste in the mouth. Next comes stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea, followed by seizures and shock. Death results from the seizures and shock or from kidney failure a short while later. Arsenic poisoning is lethal a few hours to a few days after exposure.

Note That the Toxin Can Move Slowly

Sometimes people experience slow arsenic poisoning. This happens in parts of the world where arsenic contaminates drinking water or where workers are chronically exposed to low levels of arsenic, such as in pesticide plants or metal working or mining industries. The symptoms of chronic arsenic exposure are different from those of acute exposure. Early symptoms include growths on the skin and changes to skin pigment, causing either dark or white spots. Over time people with ongoing exposure to arsenic develop cancer, especially lung cancer and bladder cancer.

Doctors Can Help

Arsenic accumulates in the hair follicles and in the fingernails and toenails. Health care providers diagnose chronic arsenic poisoning by analyzing these body tissues for the presence of arsenic. They diagnose acute arsenic poisoning by reviewing the immediate history of the symptoms and looking for a probable source. Doctors treat acute arsenic poisoning with injections of dimercaporal, which they give several times over several days. Early detection and treatment are crucial because arsenic works fast and can kill a person or permanently damage the kidney in only a few hours.

Help Your Body Clean House

When someone has endured long-term exposure to small amounts of arsenic, they can flush accumulated toxins out of the body through a process called chelation. Chelation therapy uses medicine or other substances to help the body clear out toxic metals, such as mercury, in addition to arsenic. Some dietary components also help the body remove certain toxins. Examples are fiber, the amino acid cysteine and sulphur. Other dietary supplements that help the body purge toxins are coenzyme Q10, the amino acid L-lysine, garlic and alfalfa. When using supplements to clear toxins and metals from the body, you should also supplement with essential minerals like iron, which are removed from the body in the chelation process.

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