Malathion is an insecticide, a product used to kill or control bugs. Poisoning may occur if you swallow malathion, handle it without gloves, or do not wash hands your hands soon after touching it. Large amounts can be absorbed through the skin.
This article is for information only. DO NOT use it to treat or manage an actual poison exposure. If you or someone you are with has an exposure, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.
Malathion is the poisonous ingredient in these products.
Malathion is used in agriculture to kill and control insects on crops and in gardens. The government also uses it to kill mosquitoes in large outdoor areas.
Malathion may also be found in certain products to kill head lice.
Below are symptoms of malathion poisoning in different parts of the body.
AIRWAYS AND LUNGS
BLADDER AND KIDNEYS
EYES, EARS, NOSE, AND THROAT
HEART AND BLOOD
STOMACH AND GASTROINTESTINAL TRACT
Call poison control for treatment information. If malathion is on the skin, wash the area thoroughly for at least 15 minutes.
Throw away all contaminated clothing. Follow instructions from the appropriate agencies for getting rid of hazardous waste. Wear protective gloves when touching contaminated clothing.
Have this information ready:
Your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States. They will give you further instructions.
This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Take the container with you to the hospital, if possible.
People with malathion poisoning will likely be treated by first responders (firefighters, paramedics) who arrive when you call your local emergency number. These responders will decontaminate the person by removing the person's clothes and washing them down with water. The responders will wear protective gear. If the person is not decontaminated before getting to the hospital, emergency room personnel will decontaminate the person and provide other treatment.
The health care provider at the hospital will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. The person may receive:
People who continue to improve in the first 4 to 6 hours after receiving medical treatment usually recover. Prolonged treatment often is needed to reverse the poisoning. This may include staying in the hospital intensive care unit and getting long-term therapy. Some effects of the poison may last for weeks or months, or even longer.
Keep all chemicals, cleaners, and industrial products in their original containers and marked as poison, and out of the reach of children. This will reduce the risk of poisoning and overdose.
Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Emeritus, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.