Rat Poison First Aid

What to do when you suspect rodenticide poisoning

Brown rat (Rattus norvegicus) feeding on grain inside a farm building
Nature Picture Library / Getty Images

The most common types of rat poison use a common blood thinner to cause internal bleeding in rodents. Touching rat poison is as safe as handling blood thinning medication and is generally not harmful. Ingesting rat poison, on the other hand, is extremely dangerous.


Most rat poison uses a common blood thinner used by heart attack and stroke patients: warfarin (Coumadin). Another type of rat poison uses thallium sulfate as the active ingredient. In addition, there are second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides that are far more toxic. These include bromadiolone, brodifacoum, and difenacoum. They may produce symptoms at far lower doses than the first-generation rodenticides.

Some of the symptoms are similar, and because symptoms may take hours or days to appear, there may not be any way to see which type of poison was ingested unless it is discovered at the time of ingestion.

The first risk of rat poison comes from the presence of it. If a patient had the potential for ingesting rat poison—you discover that a container of rat poison spilled in the cabinet and potentially contaminated people food, for example—that would be a reason to consider the possibility. Patients who exhibit more than one symptom from this list may have ingested one or both types of rat poison:

  • Nosebleeds not caused by trauma to the nose
  • Bleeding gums not caused by trauma to the mouth
  • Blood in the urine: this always warrants a trip to see the doctor
  • Bloody diarrhea: untreated, this can lead to shock
  • Hair loss: this is a very late sign of rat poison ingestion and it might be very difficult to put this together with possible ingestion
  • Extensive bruising: also a very vague sign that often won't make you think first of potential ingestion
  • Fatigue: a late and very dangerous sign of poison ingestion, but a common complaint for many other conditions
  • Shortness of breath: this warrants a call to 911 all by itself

Of course, all of these symptoms may be caused by other conditions as well as rat poisoning. Do not try to diagnose the patient's condition; always follow conventional suggestions about when to call 911. It's important to consider the idea of poisoning anytime more than one person in the home suddenly exhibits the same signs and symptoms.

For non-emergencies that you think may be related to rat poison, call a doctor or Poison Control Center. The national number for Poison Control is 1-800-222-1222.

First Aid

If ingestion of rat poison has just occurred, call 911 or contact Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222. More than likely, the patient will need medical attention immediately.

Activated charcoal and syrup of ipecac are available over the counter for immediate treatment of poison ingestion. Never use activated charcoal or syrup of ipecac unless directed to do so by Poison Control.


Of note, as of 2011, rodenticide bait must be sold in the form of blocks rather than pellets or loose bait and it has to be contained inside a tamper-proof bait station. If you have any of the older forms of rat poison around the house, consider disposing of it and getting the safer bait.

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