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 poisoning. If you or someone you are with is poisoned, call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
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.
Before Calling Emergency
Have this information ready:
Person's age, weight, and condition
Name of the product (ingredients and strength, if known)
Time it was swallowed
The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. 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.
What to Expect at the Emergency Room
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:
Blood and urine tests
Breathing support, including oxygen, tube through the mouth into the throat, and breathing machine
Tube placed down the nose and into the stomach (sometimes)
Washing of the skin (irrigation) and eyes, perhaps every few hours for several days
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.
Toxicological Profile for Malathion. Atlanta, GA: Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR); 2003.
Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.