What Happens If You Eat Rat Poison?

Can Rat Poison Kill Humans?

Eating rat poison, or rodenticide, is extremely dangerous and can lead to internal bleeding, organ failure, paralysis, coma, and death. Signs of poisoning may not appear until hours or even days after exposure.

It's important to always handle rat poison appropriately and store it in a safe place where children, pets, or vulnerable individuals can't access it.

This article covers the symptoms associated with ingesting rat poison. It also explains complications, treatment, immediate first-aid steps to take, as well as poisoning prevention tips.

If you think that you or a loved one has accidentally eaten, touched, or inhaled rat poison, don't wait for signs that something is wrong. Call poison control right away at 1-800-222-1222.

Pets that eat rat poison are also in danger. The Animal Poison Control Center can be reached at 1-888-426-4435.

Brown Rat Eating Grain in a Barn.
Nature Picture Library / Getty Images

What Rat Poisoning Does to Humans

Rat poison is toxic to humans and other mammals. The symptoms associated with ingesting, touching, or inhaling rat poison can take a while to appear and may be mistaken for other conditions.

Common symptoms include:

Anticoagulant (blood thinning) ingredients are found in most rat poisons. They are responsible for more than 50% of rat poison-related calls to the Poison Control Center each year.

Complications

Complications of ingesting rat poison are extremely serious and include brain damage, liver damage, kidney failure, coma, and even death.

There are also complications associated with administering treatment such as:

Timing and Urgency

If you or a loved one accidentally ingests, inhales, or touches rat poison, it's important to seek treatment right away. The quicker you can get diagnosed and treated, the better. Waiting to seek appropriate treatment increases the risk of serious complications.

Treatment

Treatment may involve oral and/or intravenous (IV) medication. Depending on the specific case, individuals may or may not fully recover and long-term treatment may be needed.

  • The anticoagulants in rat poisons stop the actions of a vitamin K enzyme your body needs to form blood clots. To reverse this blood thinning effect, you may be given vitamin K1 therapy through an IV.
  • Blood thinning poisons called superwarfarins have long-lasting effects, so you will need to take oral doses of vitamin K1 therapy for about 168 consecutive days.
  • There are no drugs to reverse the effects of non-anticoagulant rat poisons like bromethalin, strychnine, or zinc phosphide. Supportive care may include IV fluids and treatments for specific symptoms. Activated charcoal or ipecac may be used to detox the gastrointestinal tract.

Some rat poison products contain blue or green dye so that you can quickly identify when someone has touched or swallowed them. If possible, check the packaging for the active ingredient and share that information with healthcare providers. This can ensure the correct treatment is given.

Are All Rat Poisons Equally Dangerous?

The two ingredients that are responsible for most rat poisonings in people are bromadiolone and brodifacoum.

Though it's very rare, thallium poisoning may occur, typically from old rat poison products. The chemical absorbs into the skin and gastrointestinal tract quickly, and exposure to as little as 8 milligrams (mg) can be fatal.

Some common brands of rat poison on the market include:

  • Havoc Rodenticide Bait: a blood thinner that contains brodifacoum
  • Tomcat Bait Chunx: a single-dose poison (only needs to be eaten once to kill) that contains bromethalin
  • Bell Contrac Rodent Control: a blood thinner that contains bromadiolone
  • Neogen Rodenticide: a blood thinner that contains diphacinone
  • ZP Tracking Powder: an indoor rat poison that contains cholecalciferol

It would take a large dose of cholecalciferol to cause calcium toxicity (hypercalcemia) in a person. Cholecalciferol poisoning is far more common in pets than it is in people.

In 2017, there were over 10,000 reports of rat poisoning in people. Over half of those cases were children ages 6 and under.

What to Do If You Touch, Inhale, or Ingest Rat Poison

If you or your loved one has swallowed, touched, or inhaled rat poison, do not try to treat the poisoning yourself with medication or natural remedies. Before doing anything else, call a poison control expert right away.

Labels on rat poison products always show first aid instructions. Always read them before you open the product just in case you are exposed.

For example, the product label for CONTRAC All-Weather BLOX (an anticoagulant with bromadiolone) instructs:

  • If ingested, you should first call Poison Control, then sip a glass of water if you're able to swallow. You should not try to vomit unless a poison control expert or your doctor tells you to.
  • If you get rat poison on your skin or clothing, you should remove the clothing and rinse your skin immediately for 15 to 20 minutes. Call Poison Control for advice as soon as you can.
  • If you get rat poison in your eyes, you should flush your eyes (while open) with water for 15 to 20 minutes, remove any contact lenses after five minutes, then continue to flush and call Poison Control.

A Poison Control expert may tell you to go to the hospital.

Does Milk Dilute Poison?

No. If you have swallowed poison, drinking small amounts of water or milk may help soothe burning or irritation for a short time, but it will not reduce or balance out the toxins in your body.

Prevention

Before you bring rat poison into your home, try other methods of control. Take steps to prevent rodents from entering your home:

  • Never leave food or wrappers lying around the house.
  • Always toss leftover food items into a tightly sealed trashcan outside of your home.
  • Make sure any cracks or crevices in your walls, windows, and doors are fully sealed, along with garbage cans and leaky faucets.
  • Keep bushes and other plants around the outside of your home trimmed so that rats will be less likely to nest in them.

Non-Toxic Repellents

Non-toxic repellents you could try include:

  • Fresh Cab Botanical Rodent Repellent: This EPA-registered natural repellent is made of balsam fir oil, fragrance oil, and plant fibers. It is safe for both indoor or outdoor use.
  • Peppermint oil: Rats hate this smell. Wet cotton balls with this essential oil and place them near the nest or wherever you find droppings. This probably won't banish pests for good, but it can be a temporary solution.
  • Vinegar: Any strong-smelling substance that is non-toxic to you or your pets may keep rats away temporarily. Consider mopping the floor with vinegar on a regular basis.
  • Diatomaceous earth: This powdery substance is made of fossilized aquatic organisms called diatoms. It is non-toxic to humans but causes rodents' insides to completely dry out when they eat it.

Proper Storage and Use

As of 2011, rat poison bait must be sold in the form of blocks rather than pellets or loose bait. It must also be packaged in a tamper-proof bait station.

  • If you have any of the older forms of rat poison around the house, you may want to throw them out and buy safer bait.
  • Rodenticide should always be stored in cool, dry places that cannot be reached by children or pets. Avoid using rat poison in your kitchen.
  • Always wear gloves, protective eye-wear, and a mask when handling rat poison, dead rodents, or rat nests.
  • Wash your hands well with soap and water after you're done. Wash any surfaces or handles you may have touched in the process too.

If possible, opt for rat traps first. Place traps behind appliances or other areas that children and pets cannot reach. Keep in mind that rats and mice rarely go far from their nests, so you do not need to place traps in every nook and cranny across the room. You can just place them within 10 to 12 feet of the nest.

Summary

If you see or suspect that rats are living in your home, first try to get rid of them with rat traps or a natural repellant. Rat poison is highly toxic to humans and animals—whether it is touched, smelled, or swallowed.

Rat poisoning can be lethal, but symptoms don't always appear right away. Should you or your loved one come in contact with rat poison, do not wait for symptoms to appear. Head to the nearest urgent care or emergency room right away. Bring the poison packaging or a picture of it with you.

A Word From Verywell

Rats are known to carry dangerous viruses and diseases, posing a serious threat to your health and home. They can be quite tricky to get rid of, leading many people to consider rat poison as a last-ditch attempt to stop rats from nesting. While they are effective, rat poisons carry their own risks as well.

Read labels carefully, wear protective gear, and only place rat poison where it cannot be accessed by children or pets. When it comes to handling toxic substances, you can never be too careful.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I handle rat poison while pregnant?

    No. Handling pesticides, like rat poison, while pregnant increases your risk of miscarriage, as well as having a baby with birth defects, or other issues.

  • What should I do if my dog ate rat poison?

    If your pet eats rat poison, you need to act fast. Take your dog to the nearest veterinarian right away. Note when your dog ate the poison, how much you suspect they ate, and what kind of poison it was. If you can, bring the packaging with you. If you cannot get to a vet, call the Animal Poison Control Center immediately at 1-888-426-4435.

12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  9. Yumoto T, Tsukahara K, Naito H, Iida A, Nakao A. A successfully treated case of criminal thallium poisoningJ Clin Diagn Res. 2017;11(4):1-2. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2017/24286.9494

  10. Bell Laboratories, INC. CONTRAC All-Weather BLOX.

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By Rod Brouhard, EMT-P
Rod Brouhard is an emergency medical technician paramedic (EMT-P), journalist, educator, and advocate for emergency medical service providers and patients.