Poisoning from exposure to any of the several forms of cyanide, including hydrogen cyanide, is known as hydrogen cyanide poisoning. Headache, lightheadedness, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and nausea are some of the early signs. Seizures, a slow heartbeat, low blood pressure, unconsciousness, and cardiac arrest may then follow this period. Symptoms typically appear within a few minutes. Some survivors continue to experience neurological issues.

Depending on what it looks like, cyanide can be hazardous when inhaled, swallowed, absorbed via the skin, or administered parenterally. Clinical signs might range from moderate upper airway irritation to heart failure and death within minutes, depending on the amount consumed and exposure type.


After being exposed to hydrogen cyanide poisoning for a short while to several minutes, symptoms may develop.

Some of the common symptoms are:

  • Nausea
  • Seizure
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weakness
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Loss of consciousness

Your reaction to hydrogen cyanide poisoning will vary according to the following:

  • The dosage
  • The cyanide type
  • Length of time you were exposed

There are two main ways to become exposed to cyanide. The results of acute cyanide poisoning are quick and frequently fatal. When lesser amounts are exposed over time, chronic cyanide poisoning develops.


Seek immediate emergency medical care if you’re showing signs of hydrogen cyanide poisoning.

Consult your doctor right away if you have signs of persistent cyanide poisoning. Your doctor will conduct a physical examination after discussing your symptoms.

Blood tests will also be performed to evaluate your:

  • blood levels of carbon monoxide
  • degree of methemoglobin
  • blood or plasma lactate levels


Finding where exposure occurred is the first step in treating an alleged instance of cyanide poisoning. This will assist your doctor or other healthcare professional in selecting the best decontamination technique.

Rescue workers will enter the area and transport you to safety in the event of a fire or other emergency occurrence while wearing protective gear such as eye shields, face masks, and double gloves. If you have consumed cyanide, activated charcoal may be administered to you to aid in the toxin’s absorption and secure its removal from your body.

Because exposure to cyanide might affect how much oxygen is taken in, your doctor might use an endotracheal tube or mask to deliver 100% oxygen.

Your doctor might use one of two antidotes in extreme cases:

  • Hydroxocobalamin
  • Cyanide antidote kit

Three drugs are combined to form the cyanide antidote kit: sodium thiosulfate, sodium nitrite, and amyl nitrite.

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