I was called in haste one morning not long ago to see L- a girl some six or seven years of age, who I was told had convulsions. I saw her in from tea to fifteen minutes from the time she was attacked, she was then perfectly unconscious, with no pulse; surface of the whole body cold and moist; eyes fixed and staring; pupils dilated; breathing slow and noisy; inspiration quick, expiration very slow and prolonged, with a loud groaning noise; spasmodic closure of the jaws; slight frothing at the mouth; hands clenched; limbs flaccid, with occasional slight general convulsions more like a shuddering than anything else.
This did not seem to me like an ordinary case of convulsions, and I at once suspected the child had been poisoned. On enquiry of the father I found that he had left on a table in the room a bottle containing a solution of cyanide of potassium, twenty grains to the ounce. Concluding that this was the cause of the trouble, I at once commenced administering Ammonia, (a strong solution of which was fortunately in the house) putting four or five drops in two ounces of water, “and giving a tea-spoonful every five minutes until the pulse became perceptible, which was in about half an hour. After this Bell.6 was alternated with the Ammonia at gradually lengthened intervals. At the end of two hours and a half consciousness returned, and she started up suddenly complaining of pain in the head and pit of the stomach. Soon after this she vomited twice, at an interval of half hour, a small quantity of yellow water having a peculiar smell, and from that time improved rapidly. The medicines were discontinued at the end of four hours, and the same afternoon she was playing about, though looking pale and exhausted. She admitted that she tasted what was in the bottle, but said that as it did not taste good she spit it out immediately. How much she swallowed or whether she swallowed any she could not tell. The servant noticed her spitting something out of her mouth and almost immediately saw her fall insensible on the floor. She remembered nothing from the time she tasted the solution till consciousness was restored.
There have been but few cases recorded of poisoning by this salt, probably owing to its recent introduction into the arts, and the great rapidity of its action when taken in large quantities, death resulting in a few minutes. The largest medicinal dose of this salt it is safe to give, is from one half to five-sixths of a grain, and two or three grains are sufficient to cause death in an adult.
I would call the attention of the profession to the great similarity of the symptoms to those occurring in some cases of puerperal convulsions, especially those effecting women of a spare habit, and nervous temperament. There is the same total unconsciousness, the staring eyes, the distorted and bloated face, the slow noisy breathing, the tonic spasm of the jaws in that frightful disease.
|The AMERICAN HOMOEOPATHIC REVIEW Vol. 01 No. 12, 1859, pages 563-564
|Poisoning by Cyanide of Potassium.
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